The Co-op Group has expanded its partnership with Starship Technologies to roll out robot deliveries to neighbourhoods in Bedford.
Working with Bedford Council, the collaboration will see up to 45,000 residents across 20,000 households offered deliveries from three local Co-op stores – Goldington, Queens Drive and Kempston.
The Group already operates robot deliveries with Starship in communities across Milton Keynes, Northampton and Cambridgeshire.
Chris Conway, ecommerce director at the Group, said: “Co-op is committed to exploring new and innovative ways to serve our members and customers – they lead busy lives and so ease, speed and convenience is at the heart of our approach.
“We are delighted to be able to expand our partnership to areas of Bedford – as a convenience retailer, the ability to come into stores will always be important to customers, but we also know that shoppers want flexible and convenient options online, and so we are focused on providing what our customers want and need, however and wherever they choose to shop with us.”
Bedford mayor Dave Hodgson said: “It is exciting to see the robots on our streets. It has the potential to make life easier for thousands of residents across Bedford and Kempston while also reducing congestion. Hopefully the trial will be a success which would allow us to extend the benefits of quick and easy deliveries to more people across the borough.”
Andrew Curtis, UK operations manager at Starship Technologies, said: “We are extremely excited to be bringing the Starship service to Bedford and Kempston, offering the benefits of on-demand, autonomous grocery delivery to local residents. Our robots have been very well received and integrated seamlessly as part of local communities across Milton Keynes, Northampton and Cambourne, and we are confident they will be similarly welcomed in Bedford and Kempston.”
Starship was created by the co-founders of Skype in 2014. Since launching commercial deliveries in 2018, Starship’s robots have travelled more than 4 million miles and completed more than 3.5 million deliveries.
The robots are powered by zero carbon electricity, with an average delivery for a Starship robot consuming as little energy as boiling a kettle to make just one cup of tea. Orders are made through the Starship food delivery app, which is available for download on iOS and Android, with groceries picked fresh in local Co-op stores and delivered quickly and conveniently in as little as one hour or less.
Bedford and Kempston residents will be able to choose from a range of grocery items, schedule their delivery, then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. They can watch in real-time via an interactive map as the robot makes its journey to them. Once the robot arrives they receive an alert and can meet and unlock it through the app.
The robots are lightweight and travel at the speed of a pedestrian (no faster than 4mph). They use a combination of sensors, artificial intelligence and machine learning to travel on pavements and navigate around any obstacles, while computer vision-based navigation helps them map their environment to the nearest inch.