Skip to Content
Smart cities

Why sidewalk delivery robots still need safety drivers

January 30, 2018

Small, wheeled drones are delivering packages in some cities—but, like driverless cars, they need a helping hand a lot of the time.

The robots: Starship Technologies has six-wheeled robots that deliver food in places like London and Silicon Valley. Using nine cameras, four radars, eight ultrasonic sensors, and a bit of AI, they navigate their way along sidewalks like mini autonomous cars.

Their limits: At the AI Congress in London today, Starship’s Kristjan Korjus noted that the firm’s robots cost $5,500, and the aim is for them to cost $2,250. That pricing, he says, means “every sensor is quite crappy.”

Why that matters: There’s a limit to what cheap computers and sensors can do, even if the robots travel at just four miles per hour: currently, they can cross a road independently just 50 percent of the time. Korjus says Starship employs 100 operators to remotely control the robots during tricky situations, and that the firm won’t have fully self-driving bots any time soon.

Deep Dive

Smart cities

AV2.0 autonomous vehicles adapt to unknown road conditions concept
AV2.0 autonomous vehicles adapt to unknown road conditions concept

The big new idea for making self-driving cars that can go anywhere

The mainstream approach to driverless cars is slow and difficult. These startups think going all-in on AI will get there faster.

Rendering of Waterfront Toronto project
Rendering of Waterfront Toronto project

Toronto wants to kill the smart city forever

The city wants to get right what Sidewalk Labs got so wrong.

Marseilles surveillance cameras
Marseilles surveillance cameras

Marseille’s battle against the surveillance state

The boisterous, rebellious port city is trying to fight the growing ubiquity of policing cameras.

sensory inputs
sensory inputs

Why sounds and smells are as vital to cities as the sights

The growing field of sensory urbanism is changing the way we assess neighborhoods and projects.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.