There’s no doubt that autonomous vehicles will flood the roads in the coming years. But, autonomous robots are now also gearing up to reign over the sidewalks, thanks to Starship Technologies and Domino’s Pizza. These two giants have inked a partnership where an autonomous shopping cart-style delivery robot from the latter will ferry the former’s hot cheesy pizzas to customers.

Under this partnership, the Estonia-based ground robotics startup will begin delivering pizzas to customers in Hamburg, Germany this summer. Domino’s expects autonomous deliveries to begin in the next two months and will be available to customers who’ll decide to opt-in for the said delivery method. Otherwise, your pizza would be delivered via regular methods.

Also, this autonomous delivery method will currently be made available to customers residing in a one-mile radius of select Domino’s outlets. In this delivery experiment, the Starship robots carrying your piping hot orders will traverse the sidewalks on its own but will be accompanied by a human to monitor in case something goes wrong. It will also be important to educate people about the delivery robots as there are high chances of vandalism and violence.


Commenting on this exciting partnership, Ahti Heinla, CEO of Starship Technologies said:

We’ve shared our vision with Domino’s to constantly improve convenience for the customer. Not only is Domino’s pizza delicious, but the perfect topping is giving back the luxury of time and control to the customer, and our robots are best placed to offer this.

For those unaware, Starship Technologies was founded by former Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis in 2014. They build the autonomous robots we’ve constantly been talking about delivering pizzas to the consumers. These six-wheeled vehicles are around two feet tall and weigh 40 pounds when empty. They move at normal walking pace and can travel about four miles within an hour.

The company has scored $17.2 million (€16.5 million) in seed funding, led by Mercedes-Benz Vans. This investment accelerates the development of the company’s pilot programs in Europe and the US. It has recently also joined hands with food delivery startups — DoorDash and Postmates in the US. This means that the food industry is ready to accept tech innovations to automate at least some aspects of their business.

Don Meij, Domino’s Group CEO and Managing Director sees the partnership as yet another significant step that aligns with the growth strategy of the company. He states that robot deliveries, currently in beta, will complement their existing fleet of cars, scooters, and e-bikes to deliver piping hot pizzas to the customers. And they’ll become an integral part who will help them complete last-mile deliveries on the regular — due to a surge in deliveries and not enough drivers. Meij further continues to add,

We are a global company and we are eager to progress innovative technology in all of the countries in which we operate – we are very excited to be partnering with Starship as it brings regular deliveries by robot one step closer to commercial operations.

This is, however, not Domino’s first attempt at automating the pizza delivery process. Earlier, the company has successfully completed a pizza delivery via a drone in New Zealand. This trip involved traversing a rather short distance, which took the drone only around five minutes to complete. But, you’d be surprised to know that Domino’s has also experimented with its own sidewalk robot that is capable of delivering pizzas. It completed a successful delivery in Australia. So, it is currently unclear whether the company plans to work only with Starship or introduce their own robots to deliver pizzas as well.

The International Federation for Robotics (IFR) suggests that logistics businesses will be employing at least 175,000 robots to provide their services, between 2016 and 2019. And this will include both on-ground and ariel services, where Amazon is eager to kickstart the operations as soon as they bag the necessary approvals.

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