Food delivery robot trials hit the streets


When your only human contact at home is the food delivery person – are food delivery robots such a good idea, asks Jamie Thomson

It’s not just the chronically antisocial among us that take pleasure in locking our unit doors and shutting out the world come sundown – anyone who’s had a hard day at the coalface is justified in a bit of closed-casket hibernation at the end of it.

But – disaster! – what if you look in your fridge and all you’ve got is some mouldy lettuce, the remnants of last week’s Thai takeaway and something unidentified pickled in a jar (from back when artisinal pickling seemed like a worthwhile pursuit) when dinner time arrives? That means getting a home delivery – and all the icky human interaction that such transactions are fraught with.

Well, news just in from Europe assures us that help is at hand: a number of firms, from couriers Hermes to online food delivery giant Just Eat (who purchased Aussie firm Menulog last year), are trialling delivery by robot: specifically, a six-wheeled self-driving wagon of wonder dreamt up byEstonian company Starship.

These little droids, with hot food and other packages secured in its cargo bay, are due to begin beetling their way through the legs of commuters in London this month, with trials in a number of German cities set to follow. The cute little delivery-bots are monitored by humans at a control centre to ensure they don’t end up at the bottom of a canal or hi-jacked by gangs of young ne’erdowells dressed as Jawas from Star Wars.

However, should that be the case, the joke would be on them; the contents of our intrepid friend can only be accessed by entering a code sent to the deliveree’s phone. (Yes, unfortunately, there is an element of interaction on your part. The technology has yet to be developed where these automatons can let themselves into your house, trundle over to your prone body on the sofa, and then tip their contents directly into your mouth. But it’s only a matter of time … )

It remains to be seen whether this technology will ever reach Australian shores, but, in the meantime, Title would like to request that delivery drivers – in addition to their almost universal dedication to keeping their helmets on, visors down, while handing us our Pad Thai – also speak like a robot and make the odd beeping noise, so that we can pretend that we’re in the future, too.

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