• Just Eat is testing a Starship robot to deliver food from its takeaway restaurants to customers' doors in London. (Getty Images, Just Eat)Source: Getty Images, Just Eat
The future is here.
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

7 Jul 2016 - 2:25 PM  UPDATED 11 Jul 2016 - 7:50 AM

Next time you order take away, it could be a robot bringing it to your door. Which prompts us to wonder - what happens if someone tries to steal the robot?

Food delivery robots will start delivering meals to homes in London in the next few months. One of Europe's biggest food-delivery apps, Just Eat, is testing out the self-driven robots as part of a partnership with Estonian startup Starship Technologies

The robots, which drive at a walking pace and can cross roads by themselves, send customers a smartphone notification when they are about two minutes away from the front door, and another message when they arrive.

They can then be unlocked with an access code that customers receive when they place their order.

Six of the 61cm tall robots will be trialled by several restaurants in central London through Just Eat over the coming months, but Starship has already been testing the robots on the streets of London, Berlin and Tallin, Estonia since late last year.

 

Just Eat plans to "ramp up" their use in the second half of 2016, chief executive David Buttress told Forbes, and he believes the initial £1 delivery cost will go down in time.

"This is for real and going to happen. This isn't a future thing," Buttress said, who was one of the first people in Britain to order takeaway food with one of the robots, and thought it "was really cool".

The company doesn't plan to have the robots take the place of human delivery drivers, but rather the robots will supplement them at peak times when restaurants are inundated with orders.

Starship, built by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, says the robots will make all deliveries within a 5km radius in 15-30 minutes.

The robots are not completely autonomous, though. They are monitored by Starship staff from offices in Tallin and London, and when they come across a temporary obstruction, such as a parked bicycle or a bag or rubbish, a human controller will remotely steer them around. 

Starship's founders are not worried people will try to steal the robots, which weigh more than 18kg and carry cameras that give a 360 degree view of their surroundings. They say they have carried out tests over the past 9 months "without a single incident". 

A spokesman for Starship Technologies told SBS the company had no immediate plans to bring the robots to Australia, but "the likelihood is we'll come and do a trial and test in Australia sometime in 2017, or potentially before".

It follows the announcement by Domino's Australia in March that it had developed the world's first self-driving pizza delivery robot, which the company says will be operational "one day soon".

And if robots delivering your food wasn't enough, a robot-run burger restaurant is due to open soon in San Francisco.

The robot, created by Momentum Machines, can slice toppings, grill a beef patty, and assemble and bag the burger without any help from humans, and could produce 400 made-to-order hamburgers an hour, Tech Insider reports

The as-yet unnamed restaurant is now looking to hire a person to take care of the other tasks, including taking customer orders, taking out the rubbish and software troubleshooting. 

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