Santa Claus could soon have some extra help delivering presents, with a fleet of small self-driving delivery robots gearing up to be tested on the streets of London. Matthew Stock reports.
It's a busy time of year for Santa Claus, and getting presents delivered on time isn't easy. But this self-driving delivery robot could be the little helper that Santa - and the rest of us - have been waiting for. Developers Starship Technologies say it puts the customer in control of when they get their package delivered. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AHTI HEINLA, CEO AT STARSHIP TECHNOLOGIES, SAYING: "When you place your order online, as you do right now, but instead of getting the delivery by somebody coming up to your door and knocking on your door, you would get it by a robot." The prototype 'droid' can carry the equivalent of two bags of shopping. Orders will be delivered to a designated hub or retail outlet, before being loaded into one of the robots for the final delivery. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PETE, PASSER BY, SAYING: "I think it's the thing of the future. In decades to come you're going to see these sorts of things buzzing around the streets or up in the air. It's the start of the way ahead, I think." Starship says it will drive autonomously 99 percent of the time, but is overseen by human operators who can take control if needed. For security - it has nine internet-connected cameras, a loudspeaker and microphone. Companies including Amazon are pioneering deliveries via aerial drone, such as this prototype. But Starship says airborne drones aren't a popular idea. (SOUNDBITE) (English) AHTI HEINLA, CEO AT STARSHIP TECHNOLOGIES, SAYING: "People don't like other machines flying over their backyard where their children are playing." Starship Technologies will launch real-life trials of the robots in London and some U.S. cities in Spring 2016.