Skype founders invent self-driving robot that can deliver groceries

The Starship robot has been developed by Skype founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis. It drives on pavements at an average speed of 4mph, and uses proprietary mapping and navigation to avoid crashing into obstacles, Starship is currently demonstrating prototypes of the robot, and plans to launch services in the UK in 2016.
Mr Heinla said the robots are primarily intended for use in suburban areas. One of the first pilot areas will be Greenwich in East London. Each robot can carry the equivalent of two grocery bags (20lbs). They will operate out of hubs, shipping containers that are specially built or co-located within grocery stores or warehouses. The robots will return to their hubs between deliveries to recharge and be cleaned if necessary.
Customers will be able to book deliveries and track the robot’s progress on their mobile phone in real time. The cargo space will remain locked and secure until the robot arrives outside the customer’s front door. The customer can then unlock it using their mobile app and retrieve their groceries. The robots will drive autonomously up to 99pc of the time, using a combination of cameras, GPS, gyroscopes and pre-installed mapping data, but a human operator can assume remote control at any time.
"If we decide to start serving an area, we need to run the robots for some period of time under human control, maybe a few days, maybe a few weeks, to map all the landmarks and lanes and potholes. After that, the robot can drive itself," said Mr Friis.
"If anything comes up, like a difficult road crossing or a new unexpected situation on the roads, or if there are lots of people around and it needs to figure out how to navigate through them, it can always call home, and the operator can see what the robot sees and overtake the driving."