Tesco tests delivery robots

Tesco has completed a “one-off trial” using a robot to deliver groceries to a customer’s home in London.

The grocer partnered with Starship Technologies to deliver a one-hour fulfilment service as part of its Tesco Now initiative. 

The Starship robot is capable of carrying the equivalent of two grocery bags, and completing local deliveries within five and 30 minutes from the retail outlet. The company claims it costs 10-15 times less than current last-mile delivery alternatives. The robots drive autonomously 99% of the time and provide an environmentally-friendly option for the last-mile fulfilment challenge faced by retailers.

With a corresponding app, customers can follow the robot from shop to front door and then use a pin to access their groceries.

"We are always looking at new ways to improve the shopping experience for our customers," said a Tesco spokesperson. "We carried out a one-off trial as part of our Tesco Now initiative in partnership with a technology company. We learnt a great deal from this trial and we'll be reviewing feedback before deciding our next steps."

Tesco is currently trialing a one-hour 'Tesco Now' delivery service in zones one and two of London, which the Starship robot was part of. 

Speaking to the CEO and co-founder of Starship Technologies last year, Ahti Heinla told Essential Retail that many different types of retailers were showing an interest in the robotics technology, from “small bakeries to some of the world's largest retailers”.

“Clearly, lowering the cost of delivery and making it more convenient for consumers are worthy goals in all sectors,” he said. “The vast majority of items delivered today in the world do fit into a Starship robot, and all retailers are interested in saving money. For residential area consumers, they are obviously also interested in saving money, and additionally, they like the idea that the robot could deliver their parcels when convenient for the consumer (often in the evening), not when a courier happens to be in their area (usually during workday).”