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Domino’s will begin using robots to deliver pizzas in Europe

UPDATED: Wed., March 29, 2017

By Jeremy Kahn Bloomberg

Starship Technologies, the London-based company that has created six-wheeled self-driving delivery robots, will begin taking customers Domino’s pizzas in Germany and the Netherlands.

Starship, launched in July 2014 by two former Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, will whisk pizzas to customers’ doors if they live within a one-mile radius of certain Dominos pizza shops in “select German and Dutch cities,” the company said in a statement.

Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, the world’s largest franchise licence owner of Domino’s Pizza, with operations in markets across Asia and Europe, has formed a group called Domino’s Robotic Unit to oversee the project.

Domino’s has tested ground-based autonomous vehicles for pizza delivery in Australia and New Zealand in 2016. In November it also delivered a pizza —peri-peri chicken— by drone in New Zealand.

“With our growth plans over the next five to 10 years, we simply won’t have enough delivery drivers if we do not look to add to our fleet through initiatives such as this,” Domino’s Pizza Enterprises Chief Executive Officer Don Meij said in a statement.

Starship’s battery-powered robot is designed to operate autonomously on sidewalks, not roads, and has a maximum speed of four miles per hour carrying loads up to 20 pounds. Its cargo hold, which customers unlock with a code sent to their mobile phones, is insulated and the pizzas will also be placed inside a special hot or cold bag similar to the ones used for motorcycle-based deliveries.

“Dependent on size, we can carry up to eight pizzas on a delivery or a variety of combinations of pizzas, sides and cold drinks or dessert products,” the company said.

Starship is already delivering food orders for Just Eat Plc in London, in the upmarket neighborhood of Greenwich. It also has partnerships for food, grocery and parcel deliveries with Postmates, DoorDash, Hermes Parcel Delivery Service, Swiss Post and Wolt in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Switzerland and Estonia.

Mercedes-Benz Vans, a unit of Daimler AG, invested $17.2 million in Starship in January. Mercedes-Benz has created prototype vans that could serve as a kind of “mothership” or logistics hub for a small fleet of autonomous sidewalk drones like Starship’s. These vans could one day be self-driving too.

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