In Milton Keynes, an English town, a fleet of robots on wheels deliver shopping as the residents are confined to their homes during lockdown to stem the coronavirus pandemic. The popularity of the robots, which are about the height of the knee of an adult, and are white bodies on six wheels has surged in the town in recent weeks, the machines, however, have been delivering for over two years and are the usual sight on the road.
As of March 23, the government in London reportedly imposed strict social distancing measures that prohibited all non-essential movement to curb community transmission. With over 18,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the protocols have been toughened. Hence, with people stuck at home in Milton Keynes, the demand for the robots was pushed past to include at least 70 additional to the fleet over the last three weeks.
Starship’s Harris-Burland, Vice President to the San-Francisco based robot manufacturers, was quoted as saying that the robots have undertaken over 100,000 autonomous deliveries orders in town. Further, he said, the company was giving free deliveries to the National Health Service (NHS) staff and medics. The focus was to make life a little bit easier for the frontline workers in the very, very stressful times, he further added. Most healthcare workers were doing 80-hour weeks and were unable to visit local grocery stores, so the robots delivered the items to them. Burland said that he was honoured to be a part of the initiative.
With an antenna topped with a red flag, the robots can be spotted easily running across the town as residents are full well aware of their presence. Several residents that received their essential supply items took to Twitter to share their experience or an update about the “future of shopping”.
Ventured outside (to get the week’s essential shopping) and saw my first autonomous delivery robot in Milton Keynes this morning. The future is officially here! pic.twitter.com/sAdEryTe0x— David Mosley (@Arkwright99) April 6, 2020
Heres one of the nearly fully automated robot delivery pods going past in Milton Keynes. They deliver food shopping and I think maybe takeaways are being planned too.— 🎮🏳️🌈Marty #RemakeShiningForce3YouCowards (@PhantasyStarBoy) August 5, 2018
Came back to my childhood home in Milton Keynes to find semi-autonomous food shopping delivery robots driving around fully equipped with cameras & sensors in what is now a ‘robot delivery area’ pic.twitter.com/9BhXEsk7me— Adam Michael Packer (@adammpacker) August 25, 2018
Visiting family in Milton Keynes, we used the app from the local Co-op, ordered the shopping, and then waited for the robot to arrive with the goods! Robot crossed roads safely, navigated around dogs and children on the way, and delivered the food right on time #backtothefuture pic.twitter.com/0Hpbw53LuD— Miriam Rice (@Miriam_E_Rice) October 21, 2018
In Milton Keynes, UK, they have robots that deliver your shopping from the local store. I pulled up next to one today and took a pic. Man! When I think back to when we were kids and think about what fun we would have had with these! LOL pic.twitter.com/3fP79DuCca— Kurt Chambers (@emailmanROCKS) February 4, 2019
So this weird suburb of Milton Keynes has SHOPPING DELIVERY ROBOTS!! WHAT?!?!? pic.twitter.com/vQ44538kuu— Cathryn Dunicliff 🚑🔬💻 (@Meowter_space) July 27, 2019
I do love the little delivery robots that go around Milton Keynes. 😂— Darius (@DariusGames1990) January 18, 2020
It’s like R2D2 bringing you your shopping. pic.twitter.com/HpYJLGs1Qv