Monday 2 November 2015 2:54 pm

Skype founders take on 24-hour delivery market with launch of self-driving robot

Kasmira Jefford covers retail, consumer and property news at City A.M.

Kasmira Jefford covers retail, consumer and property news at City A.M.

Follow Kasmira Jefford

Forget delivery vans or even using your legs to walk to the shops for that matter. The founders of Skype plan to shake-up the grocery delivery market with a fleet of self-driving robots that will be able to drop groceries on your doorstep within 30 minutes.

Starship Technologies, founded by Skype’s Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, has invented a robot that can whizz down pavements at a speed of around four miles per hour with up two shopping bags or parcels (20lbs) stored inside of it.

The start-up claims that because of its technology and approach, it can lower the cost of local delivery to a fraction of the cost charged by traditional grocery delivery companies. The Starship robot is also kitted out with navigation technology so that it can avoid obstacles and even stop to cross the street.

You might be wondering how the company plans to avoid its grocery mignons being kidnapped. However Starship said its robots are monitored by human operators who can, at any time, take control over the device and “view the world through the robot’s eyes”, even communicating with people around it.

Starship is currently testing its prototypes and plans to launch the first pilots in the US, UK and other countries in 2016.

“Our vision revolves around three zeroes – zero cost, zero waiting time and zero environmental impact. We want to do to local deliveries what Skype did to telecommunications.” said Heinla said.

Delivery has become a battleground for retailers and supermarket in winning over customers. Amazon has this year begun to introduce one-hour delivery service for Prime members. It also plans to go head-to-head with supermarkets and Ocado next year by launching its own grocery service Amazon Fresh.

Meanwhile Asda's US owner Walmart last week applies to US regulators to request permission to test out drones for delivery, pitting it against Amazon which has also been testing deliveries by drones. Starship's more grounded approach could open up a fresh delivery war on the pavements.