17 May 2022

Food delivery robots have taken to the streets of Cambourne, Cambridgeshire, this week as part of a pilot organised between Co-op, Cambridgeshire County Council and Starship Technologies.

The tie-up will see 12,000 residents in 5,000 homes benefit from quick deliveries of products from their local Co-op, with customers receiving groceries from store to door via a fleet of Starship’s autonomous robots.

The project, beginning this week in Cambridge, also forms part of the council’s wide-ranging environmental agenda as it will help to reduce short car journeys and improve air quality.

Co-op was the first UK supermarket to pilot autonomous robot deliveries, with the service already a familiar sight in Milton Keynes and Northampton.

Chris Conway, eCommerce Director, Co-op, said: “Co-op is committed to exploring new and innovative ways to increase access to its products and services. Our members and customers lead busy lives and ease, speed and convenience is at the heart of our approach. Co-op stores across the country are well placed to serve shoppers locally and a key part of our strategy is to further develop our ecommerce offer by using our store footprint to provide same-day, rapid, home deliveries. As a convenience retailer, the ability to come into stores will always be important to customers, but we also know that shoppers want flexible options online, and so we are focused on providing what our customers want and need, however and wherever they choose to shop with us.”

Starship’s robots, which are powered by zero carbon electricity, are advanced autonomous devices that can carry items over short distances without needing a driver. Orders are made through the Starship food delivery app, which is available for download on iOS and Android, with groceries picked fresh in local Co-op stores and delivered quickly and conveniently in as little as one hour or less.

The Cambridgeshire trial will see residents living in Lower and Upper Cambourne able to order deliveries which are selected fresh in the local Co-op store at 29 Mosquito Road, Upper Cambourne. A map showing who will be eligible to book deliveries can be viewed on Google.

Cambourne residents will be able to choose from a range of grocery items, schedule their delivery, then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. They can watch in real-time via an interactive map as the robot makes its journey to them. Once the robot arrives they receive an alert and can meet and unlock it through the app.

Cllr Peter McDonald, chair of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Highways and Transport Committee, said: “The partnership is tremendously exciting and has the potential to make life easier for thousands of residents while also reducing congestion. Hopefully the trial will be a success which would allow us to extend the benefits of quick and easy deliveries to more people across the county.”

Cllr Mark Howell, member for Cambourne, added: “I’m delighted people living in my ward will now be able to enjoy the convenience of having small food deliveries dropped off at their front door. This will cut down on the number of small car journeys and save time. I would like to thank Starship for choosing Cambourne for the trial and I look forward to seeing how it goes.”

Andrew Curtis, UK operations manager at Starship Technologies, said: “We are very pleased to be bringing the benefits of on-demand, contactless grocery delivery to residents in Cambourne. In the last few years we have had extremely positive feedback from people using our service regularly in Milton Keynes and Northampton who have embraced the robots as part of their local communities. We’re looking forward to working closely with the council in Cambridgeshire and hopefully expanding the scope of this initial project.”

Starship was created by the co-founders of communications system Skype in 2014, and since launching commercial deliveries in 2018 Starship’s robots have travelled more than 4 million miles and safely completed more than 3.5 million deliveries to customers. Around the world, the robots are making 140,000 road crossings every day, equivalent to three road crossings every second.

Starship currently operates a fully commercial service in six countries around the world, including across university campuses in America and in local neighbourhoods here in the UK in Milton Keynes and Northampton.

The robots are lightweight and travel at the speed of a pedestrian (no faster than 4mph). They use a combination of sensors, artificial intelligence and machine learning to travel on pavements and navigate around any obstacles, while computer vision-based navigation helps them map their environment to the nearest inch.

Further information:
Andrew Torr
Co-op Press Office
M: 07702505551
E: andrew.torr@coop.co.uk