Delivery robots have been spotted forming an orderly queue to use a pedestrian crossing – asking a passer-by to press the button for them.
Photos showed The Starship Technologies food delivery robots patiently waiting to cross the road as part of their new trial in Cambridge this month.
Cyclist Naomi Davies saw the group of robots on the sidewalk and said they waited three light changes before one crossed the road.
While they were waiting in line, one of the robots asked a woman to press the button for them. Starship said the robots weren’t “shy,” so they liked to ask strangers for help when they needed it.
Naomi Davies was cycling home when she came across seven (five photos) delivery robots in an orderly line waiting to cross the street. The robots waited for three light changes before one was brave enough to cross. One of the robots even asked a passer-by to press the button for them
Ms Davies, who took the photos, said there were seven robots in all, two out of frame.
The machines look like little white plastic boxes on six wheels, outfitted with a bright orange flag that lights up at night so motorists and pedestrians can see them as they drive around.
She told the BBC: “I thought the first one would go when the lights changed, but it just started maneuvering and shuffled around a bit and then stopped.
Starship Technologies’ robots are currently being used in Cambridge as part of a journey between Cambridgeshire County Council and the Co-op to deliver groceries to the city’s 12,000 residents
‘At one point a dog came by and a robot, as it were, swung around the dog and then seemed to get stuck.
“One of the robots asked a lady to press the button – I think she was quite surprised that a robot spoke to her.”
The cyclist waited Tuesday night for a robot to cross Coleridge Road and Davy Road, but didn’t know how long the others took because it was cold and she wanted to get home.
The photo of the robots sparked a lot of comments on Facebook, with most people wondering how the crouching robots are supposed to get to the button.
One said, “I almost felt the need to get out of my car to activate the traffic lights. Somehow they look so sad waiting on the curb.”
Another asked, “How do they activate the traffic lights?”
Since the start of the trial, sightings of the small machines have become more frequent, amusing locals with their queuing system.
This isn’t the first trial of the Starship robot delivery service. During the pandemic, the robots in Milton Keynes were used to deliver food to people during the coronavirus lockdown
One person claimed, “I saw one of these driving up our road this Saturday afternoon. A family had ordered a birthday cake for the father and when the lid opened the lights came on and he played Happy Birthday to him.”
Another added: ‘They live in a unit behind the Vue Cinema area, every night they take themselves home in a precession. pretty funny to watch. I wonder if this was them who started their day.’
Others said the robots were “cute” and that locals in Cambridge resisted the temptation to “peek at them with their eyes.”
The squat machines ride on sidewalks and can reach speeds of 4 mph. They are rain and snow resistant
Even the animals don’t seem to be afraid of it. One woman said, “My dog loves them, he thinks they’re dogs in disguise.”
The trial is currently taking place in partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council and the Co-op, with 12,000 residents in 5,000 homes receiving deliveries from their local shop.
They have previously been rolled out on the streets of Cambourne, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Bedford.
During the coronavirus lockdown, the popularity of the knee-high robots in Milton Keynes soared. The robots even delivered free food to NHS workers.
The trial will also cover parts of Leeds, with 20,000 residents of Adel and Tinshill able to order their groceries from nearby Co-op stores.
WHAT ARE STARSHIP TECHNOLOGIES’ DELIVERY ROBOTS?
The London-based company was founded in 2014 by Skype’s Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis.
The slow-moving delivery bots have already been trialled around the world, including in Hamburg, Washington and here in the UK to deliver everything from groceries to takeaway pizza.
They have covered over 100,000 miles in test mode in over 100 cities in 20 different countries.
Unlike robots designed to resemble humans, Starship’s bot is purely functional with a large compartment to hold supplies, the size of two shopping bags.
Each six-wheeled ‘ground drone’ is fully self-propelled.
Employees can drop a pin on a map (like Uber) to show their location and then select which food to order.
Each vehicle is 55 cm high and 70 cm long.
It has a secure compartment where packages with a maximum weight of 10 kg (22 pounds) can be carried, accessible to consumers via a link generated by a smartphone app.
They have six wheels and can reach speeds of up to 4 mph (6.4 kph) per hour.
They mainly drive on sidewalks, can climb curbs and work in rain and snow.
The company has already completed trials in a number of cities in England, including Cambourne, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Bedford.
A Starship Technologies spokesperson said: “The robots make more than 140,000 crosswalks around the world every day, almost every three seconds, using a combination of sensors, artificial intelligence and machine learning to navigate safely.
“Most of these crossings are done autonomously, but in the rare cases where assistance is needed, the robots can be tracked remotely.
It’s also true that every now and then the robots aren’t shy about asking a friendly resident for help if they can’t quite reach the button, especially in a new area they’ve recently mapped.
‘Although in some locations around the world the robots can now automatically ‘talk’ to the traffic light, eliminating the need to press the button. But they also like waiting in line – they’re in England after all.’