Tesco trials one-hour robot deliveries

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Fred Searle

BY FRED SEARLE

Tesco trials one-hour robot deliveries

Supermarket hopes to begin delivering groceries in driverless robotic buggies after successful trial in London

Tesco trials one-hour robot deliveries

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Tesco is looking to start delivering groceries by robot in under an hour after a successful test-run this week.

The supermarket chain sent a food order to a central London address using a six-wheeled buggy as part of trials for its wider one-hour delivery service Tesco Now.

The retailer reportedly wants to roll out a robot delivery service after joining forces with robotics company Starship Technologies, which has also piloted deliveries with takeaway company JustEat and parcel courier Hermes.

The robots will be able to carry items within a three-miles radius, according to the Daily Mail, carrying groceries directly from stores or special delivery hubs. And customers can monitor the progress of the robots as they travel to a destination via their smartphone.

Each vehicle is almost entirely self-driving, using 3G technology to connect to the internet and GPS to navigate to the customer at speeds of around 4mph.

According to the Daily Mail, the robots can complete local deliveries in around five to 30 minutes, and integrated navigation and ‘obstacle avoidance software' allows the vehicles to steer clear of pedestrians, lampposts and other obstacles.

The robots can also climb kerbs up to 20cm tall and operate in snow up to 20cm deep, The Sun reported. And cameras are mounted on the robot so that any attempted thefts can be uploaded direct to YouTube.

Commenting on the trial, a Tesco spokesperson said: “We are always looking at new ways to improve the shopping experience for our customers.

“We carried out a one-off trial as part of our Tesco Now initiative in partnership with Starship Technologies. We learnt a great deal from this trial and we’ll be reviewing feedback before deciding on our next steps.”

Since the buggies are not 100 per cent autonomous, Starship Technologies aims to have one operator per 100 robots, according to The Sun. But operators will only take control if there is a problem.

The technology firm, based in Greenwich, was set up in 2014 by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis and manufactures its robots in Estonia.

Tesco’s robot delivery trial follows the recent launch of Tesco Now – a pilot scheme offering one-hour deliveries of up to 20 items at a time, including fresh fruit and vegetables among other products.

Britain’s biggest supermarket chain will be hoping to eat into Amazon’s share of the online retail market. Following the initial launch of AmazonFresh in 69 London postcodes, it was expanded to Greater London, Surrey and Hampshire and now covers 260 UK postcodes.

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