Delivery robots can reduce congestion and emissions, says Starship Technologies' Alastair Westgarth.

Media 7 | March 2, 2022

Delivery robots can reduce congestion and emissions
Alastair Westgarth, Chief Executive Officer at Starship Technologies talks to us about creating the first delivery robot for contactless and safe deliveries. Read on to learn more about how Starship Technologies came about this invention and what they have in store in the near future.

People love the convenience of getting food or groceries delivered when they need them.

MEDIA 7: Given the changes in today’s rapidly evolving marketplace, what are the key “climatic” changes taking place in your industry? What systematic approach are you using to monitor these changes?
Alastair Westgarth:
The number of companies in our industry - both small and large - has increased drastically in the last couple of years. We see this as a good thing because it helps validate that we were onto something when we created the robot delivery category in 2014. The pandemic accelerated the need for safe and convenient deliveries and helped bring the shift to on-demand and contactless deliveries forward more quickly than if they had just evolved naturally. The demand for our services skyrocketed during the pandemic and those numbers are continuing because people tried the service and loved it. At Starship, we always want to be a valuable community partner wherever we provide service so we work closely with local officials before beginning deliveries, we work with local and state governments to help create regulations for the industry and we always put safety at the forefront of everything we do.


M7: Starship’s business is majorly involved in campus deployment and you are also expecting the growth in the market of grocery deliveries in the near future, what is your approach to ensure this growth?
AW:
Starship is delivering a fully commercial service operating 24-7 across five different countries (UK, US, Estonia, Germany and Denmark) and 33 unique sites. This is a significant differential for Starship, as most other companies in the autonomous delivery market are only doing pilots/trials and/or require a human operator to accompany their robots. In the UK, most of our deliveries take place in neighborhoods and “top off” shopping at grocery stores is very popular. We are partnered with some of the biggest grocers in the UK - Co-op and Tesco - and we are driving plans to add more locations and partners. While most of our service areas in the US are on college campuses (24 to date), we have partnered with The Save Mart Companies and are now serving two locations in California - Modesto and Pleasanton in the San Francisco Bay Area. Once we begin service in an area, the robots become a major convenience and people love seeing this technology in their neighborhood so we have rapidly expanded our delivery area. We expect this to continue as we add more locations with our current partners and add new grocery partners.

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Developments in AI are happening at a fast pace and wanting to learn more and wanting to figure out if there is a better way to do something are essential.



M7: What was the product development cycle like when Starship Technologies launched its first delivery robot on the road?
AW:
Delivery robots didn’t exist before we created them in 2014 so developing something from the ground up required us to think far beyond design. We wanted to make sure we were responsible in creating a product that actually improved peoples’ lives and that we always put safety ahead of everything else. We had many iterations of the design but most changes were evolutionary rather than drastic. We also did extensive testing in all types of environments so we could hone in on what worked best for what we needed, for example - the width of a robot is the same width as human shoulders, so we ensure we take up the same amount of space on a sidewalk. Whenever we considered product updates, we always kept in mind that we wanted to create a product that is scalable, durable and affordable so our delivery robots could become a viable product in the future.


M7: According to you, what are your thoughts on the future of delivery robots?
AW:
We are very bullish on the future of delivery robots and have tripled our service in the last year. We are continuing to expand to new areas and to increase robots in existing areas to keep up with the demand. People love the convenience of getting food or groceries delivered when they need them and the number of competitors who have entered the robot delivery category in the last couple of years has proved that our founders were onto a good idea when they created this space in 2014! Indeed, the autonomous delivery robot market is expected to reach $55bn by 2026, according to a recent forecast from Facts & Factors.

The benefits of bringing convenience and ease to the end customer are clear, and there are also significant environmental advantages in reducing congestion and emissions. We expect to see demand for autonomous delivery to continue to grow in local neighborhoods and suburbs in particular, where traditionally the costs associated with last mile delivery have been higher than in more densely populated city centers. With it estimated that 25% of CO2 emissions and 30-50% of other pollutants are caused by urban freight transported by diesel-powered trucks and vans, it’s clear that alternative methods of delivery are needed to reduce congestion and harmful emissions in the last-mile. Each of Starship’s robots can take 10 cars off the road (based on one robot doing 10 deliveries per day) on average, while an average delivery for a Starship robot consumes as little energy as boiling the kettle to make just one cup of tea.

We firmly believe that fast, short distance, low-medium basket value deliveries cannot be done sustainably by people moving forward. Workers are too often overworked and poorly treated, as well as facing challenges around pay and employment rights. The only way to deliver on-demand goods sustainably and consistently at low cost in our view is by using autonomous robots, leaving people to work in better conditions and other areas within the wider industry.

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The only way to deliver on-demand goods sustainably and consistently at low cost in our view is by using autonomous robots.




M7: What advice do you have for young professionals stepping into this dynamic industry?
AW:
Curiosity and problem solving skills are really important. Developments in AI are happening at a fast pace and wanting to learn more and wanting to figure out if there is a better way to do something are essential. We hire college students on every campus where we operate and there is always a big demand for these jobs because students love the excitement of working in a field that is impacting both now and the future and that allows them to do things that improve people’s everyday lives as well as having a positive impact on the environment.

ABOUT STARSHIP TECHNOLOGIES

Starship Technologies is the world’s leading provider of autonomous delivery services. Its zero-emission delivery robots travel autonomously on sidewalks, crossing streets and climbing curbs, to make local deliveries of food and groceries within minutes. The robots operate on a daily basis in five countries around the world and have completed more than 3 million autonomous deliveries.

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Starship Technologies

Starship Technologies is the world’s leading provider of autonomous delivery services. Its zero-emission delivery robots travel autonomously on sidewalks, crossing streets and climbing curbs, to make local deliveries of food and groceries within minutes. The robots operate on a daily basis in five c...

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