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MIT Technology Review

The world’s first robot delivery service is launching in the UK

A new service has launched in Milton Keynes in the UK that allows people to order deliveries by robot.

The service: Residents can get parcels sent to a depot and receive a notification once they arrive. They can then get the items delivered to their door by robot, at a time of their choosing. A monthly £7.99 ($10) app subscription covers an unlimited number of deliveries. The service will launch in the San Francisco Bay Area by the end of the year.

How it works: Once they receive the location for a delivery, the autonomous robots (they look like boxes on wheels) navigate their way to the address. They’re able to cross the road and work their way around people or animals thanks to ultrasonic sensors, nine cameras, radar, and GPS. Customers unlock the robot using a personal code they receive through the app.

A first? The company behind the service, Starship Technologies, is far from the only firm working on robot deliveries. However, this is one of the first times it’s become available as a full-scale service to the public. And it’s gone through plenty of testing, with its robots clocking up 125,000 miles in 20 countries since the company launched four years ago.

However … Beyond the novelty factor, how useful is this service? Missed or late deliveries are a common headache, but is it worth all the extra steps and costs? Stolen items or vandalized robots are a potential pitfall too.