back to article R2D2 delivery robots to scurry through the streets of San Francisco

An Estonian robotics company is trialling six-wheeled delivery robots that can trundle through San Francisco delivering goods to the local population. The robots are built by Starship Technologies, a company founded in 2014 by Skype cofounders Janus Friis and Ahti Heinla, and can trundle along at 6kph (3.7mph) delivering goods …

  1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Kinder SurpriseTM on wheels...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This might become a headache for Homeland Security.

      1. Chozo
        Terminator

        Malfunctioning robots are the jurisdiction of the the 'Runaway' squad...

        https://youtu.be/zCZY9Z6WvSY

      2. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Why would Homeland Security care? The robot's not trying to get to its flight on time.

        1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Why would Homeland Security

          It can carry stuff. If it becomes popular enough for it to become inconspicuous this opens a whole range of opportunities for delivering "interesting" packages via both hijacked robots and jihadi robots masquerading as your common delivery bot. Both use cases are of definite interest to homeland security (or its equivalents elsewhere in the world).

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            If it becomes popular enough for it to become inconspicuous

            Like a delivery rider? If some company is promising to get a package from one place to another within a certain timeframe, the means barely matters if it's a dodgy package with an incorporated timer.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              But it's difficult to put a "package" on a delivery rider while he delivers.

              (Cue ominous music and image of the wheeled deliverator trundling down the street with a canister of TATP superglued to its back.)

        2. John Lilburne Silver badge

          Looks capable of carrying a load of explosive and shrapnell, remotely into crowded spaces. OTOH:

          https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--5ghxisXZ--/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/1370872643588849068.jpg

  2. kyndair

    The Jawas will have field day nicking them and selling them to unsuspecting shops

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The Jawas will have field day nicking them and selling them to unsuspecting the usual shops"

      Which is why they're not being trialled in East London .......

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The Boys In BlueWhite are just going to perform their Duty with the occasional ... uh ... accident.

      2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Terminator

        Screw the Jawas!!

        I want to hijack a couple of these and make my own modifications.

        Imagine answering your door and getting greeted with "If you ordered mushu chicken with hot and sour soup, I AM the droid you are looking for!" Or "Help me Obj-Wan, you're my only hope"

        And perhaps a snide "What, no tip?" at the end.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Screw the Jawas!!

          At 3.7mph, you'll be dead of food poisoning before you can complain.

  3. Kurt Meyer

    R2D2

    As I remember, R2 could also "deliver" a nasty electrical shock, so the risk might not be as bad as all that.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: R2D2

      The risk isn't crims. The risk is lawyers. As soon as these R2D2notreally are let loose, somebody will be claiming that an R2D2notreally knocked them off their feet causing life changing harm. This being the Land of No Proportion (the land formerly known as the Land of the Free), there will be an army of lawyers willing to take on a class action case to achieve "justice".

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: R2D2

        "somebody will be claiming that an R2D2notreally knocked them off their feet causing life changing harm."

        Which will last as long as it takes for the first case to get to court and the company to play the onboard surveillance (from the 9 cameras, natch) showing it didn't happen, then countersuing.

        This will be one of those cases where they LET it go to court, in order to make an example of the scammer and the scammer's lawyer.

      3. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: R2D2

        "The Land of No Proportion"

        I've just learned a new perfect phrase. Have an upvote.

  4. oxfordmale78

    My first and last delivery will be a sledge hammer.

    R2D2 delivery robots, you gotta catch em all!

  5. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

    Someone somewhere is going to take these as a challenge...

    "these droids are likely to get hijacked and cracked apart faster than a sea otter can open shellfish."

    If there's enough interesting circuitry inside these things they are going to be worth prising apart for that alone.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Someone somewhere is going to take these as a challenge...

      With nine cameras, yes, there;s bound to be some worthwhile electronics in there.

      I wonder if this is a case of "i have a hammer, that looks like a nail" issue? Nine cameras and the associated processing power required to run the imaging systems seem like huge overkill for a mobile drone creeping along the ground that simply needs to avoid all obstacles. I'd have thought a couple or three cameras would be enough. There are all sorts of simple and dirt cheap proximity sensors that could do the lions share of the work.

  6. beep54
    Devil

    "...the robots can also be controlled remotely via a smart phone app." Well, this should prove to be fun in a tech city. Way better than Pokemon Go!

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      IT Angle

      RobotWars: San Francisco! Download the control app on the Android and Apple stores!

  7. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    The same goes for the Amazon Drones

    They'll be target practice for the local scumbags.

    After all in the USA there are apparently more guns in circulation than citizens.

    1. Big John Silver badge

      Re: The same goes for the Amazon Drones

      And therefore we're all scumbags. But you aren't, so If you visit you might possibly be used for target practice. Better stay where you are, safe under the protection of your government-uniformed scumb.. er, police.

      1. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: The same goes for the Amazon Drones

        "And therefore we're all scumbags. But you aren't, so If you visit you might possibly be used for target practice. Better stay where you are...."

        No, I don't think that was implied in the OP's comment but the very fact that you flew off the handle with your mock outrage at the slightest provocation AND combined with the possibility that you might own a gun, that's what gives me the utmost concern!

        1. HausWolf

          Re: The same goes for the Amazon Drones

          That and most likely a Trump campaign worker.

          1. Big John Silver badge

            Re: The same goes for the Amazon Drones

            Yes, I do understand that both of you are concerned and fearful of people not under complete government control. Who knows WHAT they might get up to? Freedom, for instance. Very dangerous concept, freedom, and very scary for certain insecure types. But hey, that's why they invented totalitarian government, right?

    2. VinceH Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: The same goes for the Amazon Drones

      ISTM the best solution, then, will be to arm these droids.

      What could possibly go wrong?

      1. Big John Silver badge

        Re: The same goes for the Amazon Drones

        Not armed, but armoured. and a lot of it. That makes it hard to damage, and hard to move if it doesn't want to go.

        Would need a bigger engine tho...

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge
          Mushroom

          @Big John -- Re: The same goes for the Amazon Drones

          Not armed, but armoured. and a lot of it. That makes it hard to damage, and hard to move if it doesn't want to go.

          Think reactive armor (armour). The armor that gives back if you're too close.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: @Big John -- The same goes for the Amazon Drones

            Sr'mechs and floor flippers.

      2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: The same goes for the Amazon Drones

        Frikkin' Lasers?

    3. FuzzyTheBear
      Terminator

      Re: The same goes for the Amazon Drones

      The logical next step is to have the robots carry concealed firearms in their bellies to shoot any unauthorised person handling them . Think Rise of The Machines :)

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: The same goes for the Amazon Drones

        The only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good drone with a gun.

  8. Tromos

    Passing resemblance to R2D2

    Basically a dustbin on wheels then.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Passing resemblance to R2D2

      Well from the accompanying photo, they look nothing like R2D2, which is probably just as well or George Lucas might be suing them.

      They look more like a cool-box to me.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Passing resemblance to R2D2

        They look far more like the small boxes that whizzed around beeping on the Death Star. Some person (journalist or at the company) has just called it "R2-D2" to get more clicks / attention.

      2. Crazy Operations Guy

        Re: Passing resemblance to R2D2

        To me, it looks like a Roomba wearing a Daft Punk helmet...

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Passing resemblance to R2D2

        "They look more like a cool-box to me."

        Box? Yes. Cool? Not on your life!

    2. Vic

      Re: Passing resemblance to R2D2

      Basically a dustbin on wheels then.

      There are worse things than wheels...

      Vic.

  9. ElectricRook
    Facepalm

    fixed hazards will be the real challenge

    A wheeled robot can only navigate across a relatively flat surface. SF has some notoriously steep hills with sidewalks going straight up, some of the sidewalks even have steps. Then there's the curb, newspaper racks and detritus.

    Aside from the Jawas, you'll have to make a human delivery point, and that human won't want to receive if the Jawas are watching.

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: fixed hazards will be the real challenge

      This is the city where the hills are so steep they have to haul the buses up them on ropes.

      1. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

        Re: fixed hazards will be the real challenge

        Ah... Yes. However Bullitt failed to trash his 'pinto'[?] on said streets so the robots will be OK. Presumably the fixie delivery bike riders in said city have a different set of gears on their flop-flips to go with their massive thighs and perceive no threat.

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

          Re: fixed hazards will be the real challenge

          Close... Ford Mustang. The other car in the chase is a Dodge Charger.

          Now picture them trying to avoid the sortaR2D2s.

          1. Mpeler
            Black Helicopters

            Re: fixed hazards will be the real challenge

            I'd just like to picture them sending those stupid delivery robots flying. With any luck, they'd hit an Amazon delivery drone on the way out.

            The bicycle messengers will NOT be happy with the addition to the sidewalk detritus. Add to this the garbage bins that come and go on the sidewalks, the rush of people on the sidewalks (assuming this is in the business district), and the "criminal element" that might be encountered there and elsewhere, it should prove to be an entertaining show.

            All of this, to get us used to "helpful robots and drones" watching our evey move.....

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: fixed hazards will be the real challenge

              "The bicycle messengers will NOT be happy with the addition to the sidewalk detritus."

              The bicycle messengers shouldn't be on the sidewalks. The clue is in the name.

        2. HausWolf

          Re: fixed hazards will be the real challenge

          Mustang.... 390 CI or 6.4 L V8 under the hood (bonnet)

    2. c1ue

      Re: fixed hazards will be the real challenge

      And you're just referring to major geographical features.

      The minor ones will be worse: homeless sleeping on a grates. Massive subsidence caused holes or depressions. Cracks large enough to lose a shoe in. Dog poop everywhere. Cars blocking the sidewalk. Bicyclists and human pedaled scooters. Sidewalk advertising signs. Restaurants that have put chairs and tables on the sidewalk.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: fixed hazards will be the real challenge

        "Dog poop everywhere. "

        That's a bot opportunity all by itself. Two of the biggest impediments to decent street cleaning are the cost of human operators and the size of the equipment needed so they can ride in/on it.

        Paris was awash with dogshit prior to the bicentennial but discovered after the clean up for that, the citizens liked it. For many years there were mobile cleaning squads (https://anotherbagmoretravel.wordpress.com/tag/france-dog-shit/) but they're gone (costs) and you need to look where you're walking.

      2. h4rm0ny

        Re: fixed hazards will be the real challenge

        Presumably once it finds it can't progress it will ping low-paid controllers at HQ who log in remotely and navigate it manually using its cameras until its able to resume.

        1. TRT Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: fixed hazards will be the real challenge

          Paris just isn;t the same without all the dog shit everywhere.

  10. Mark York 3 Silver badge
    Terminator

    BOFH - Life imitating Art

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/09/17/bofh_2010_episode_10/ - bofh_2010_episode_17

  11. Jez-UK

    Err...

    This doesn't look even a bit like R2D2. BigTrak (a little) but not R2D2.

    Also, this seems like a stupid idea. Also as someone else pointed out - this looks like a great way to deliver an explosive device. It just seems like a really bad idea (much like the flying delivery drones do).

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Err...

      "Also as someone else pointed out - this looks like a great way to deliver an explosive device."

      There are already many, many ways to deliver an "explosive device" (we used to call them bombs). Various obvious, less obvious and stupidly complex methods have been discussed endlessly in these forums over the years and yet not a single one of them has happened in real life. Terrorist tend to stick with the KISS principle, emphasis on the 2nd S. Paranoia can be useful in some walks of life, but for most us, life is far better without it.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe ...

    ... they'll start trialing them once they've finished following them around.

    "An Estonian robotics company is trailing six-wheeled delivery robots ..."

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Maybe ...

      I was rather wondering why an Estonian robotics company wanted to trial its robots half way around the world. Are there no cities in Estonia they could use?

  13. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Go

    Once these appear in the wild

    there will be a slew of Instructables on how to use them as the basis for a real R2D2 or a Dalek.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Once these appear in the wild

      A dalek?

      1) Add disintegrator gun.

      2) Install genetically-modified xenophobic Brexiter.

      3) Um...profit?

      1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        Re: Once these appear in the wild

        No, Knightscope makes the Daleks. They still lack the powerful drivetrain and moderately lethal weapons needed to not be stolen and dismembered in SF.

  14. kain preacher Silver badge

    Ok what happens if this thing goes down hill and lose control. A1-3 kilogram object hitting your ankle at speed and do some real damage. I cant think of his name but there was an actor that tripped on the side walk in LA. he cracked his skull and was in a comma for some time.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge
      Coat

      "I cant think of his name but there was an actor that tripped on the side walk in LA. he cracked his skull and was in a comma for some time."

      People are always tripping up on Oxford commas but this is the first time I've heard of someone falling into one.

      {Sorry couldn't resist. I do typos too, feel free to mock my next one.)

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        After my 3 glass of whiskey, that sentence looked ok.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Yes, commas are the worst.

      1. Dwarf Silver badge
        Joke

        I heard that the operation required that some of their colon was removed, now they only have a semicolon.

        1. Mpeler
          Pint

          hemi-demi-semi colon

          So all that's left is a non-breaking space, so they have to make a mad dash to the loo.....

          1. Captain DaFt

            Re: hemi-demi-semi colon

            The poor fellow. You shouldn't make him the butt of your jokes.

      2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: commas are the worst

        Like the poor guy who got a packet of Viagra and misread "take 30 minutes before sex" as "take 30, minutes before sex".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I was in a comma for some time but I got a lucky break.

    4. Bill B
      Coat

      Well, at least it wasn't a full stop.

  15. Ebec

    can we see one take on one of the house robots from robot wars

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What will we give the wife?.... An Electronic milkman. :-)

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      "What will we give the wife?.... An Electronic milkman. :-)"

      They have these already, for cows. But the cows come to them and not vice versa.

      1. quxinot

        Re: "What will we give the wife?.... An Electronic milkman. :-)"

        Woosh!

    2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Looks a bit underequipped for a milkman.

  17. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Rope in the BOFH to make them more hardened and secured.

    Then send them off to go and bother spamlords.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Has anyone thought about the consequences if they become self aware? At 3.7mph no shin would be safe from the marauding robot under lords.

  19. Alister Silver badge

    I've just read through all the comments on this thread, and I can't believe that no-one has yet posted:

    THESE ARE NOT THE DROIDS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR!

  20. Snow Hill Island

    I must be getting old...

    I read this article, and my immeadiate thought was that the prior art for this dates back to the 1980's.

    Has someone *really* just got start up funding to reinvent Big Trak?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I must be getting old...

      Wasn't it also the 1980's when very similar devices were touted as doing automated mail delivery inside office buildings? ISTR seeing them around on TV.

  21. Picky
    Angel

    Little person employment - remember Max Headroom?

    Huge market for little people driving them - R2D2 had Kenny inside, Max was a fake.

    Big scam really

  22. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Happy

    It just occurred to me...

    That these robots are slow, and obviously do not have very high-powered locomotion skills. And San Francisco is probably the hilliest big city I know of.

    I wouldn't count on that kung pao chicken arriving in time for anything other than a bad case of food poisoning if you live in a neighborhood like Twin Peaks or Bernal Heights. And if you live in Noe Valley or the Mission, order from somewhere nearby, or you might see the robot bearing your pizza go skating past your place at 30 mph as it comes down off the surrounding hills.

  23. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    They already scurry through the streets of Düsseldorf!

    Several links to stories on

    Heise

    WZ (this one has a video)

    Wired

    n-tv

    WDR (more pics than the others + video)

  24. MatsSvensson

    Next step:

    Equip them with acid injectors, to defend against theft.

    Next step:

    Let them also do some light police duty.

    ...since, you know, they already have those acid injectors and stuff.

  25. Blinkered
    Mushroom

    I take it the design crew don't have kids.... dad can I go play with the delivery droids?

    So unless your kids are boring I'd imagine hours of fun making them do stupid things and building them 'obstacle courses' and tinfoil hats - lasering their cameras - throwing cardboard boxes over them (eventually someone will add a match and some petrol to that idea) - before finally kidnap and subsequent destruction on a nearby bit of waste ground - probably involving improvised pyrotechnics made from fireworks.

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