Daimler Invests in Robotic Delivery With Starship Technologies

In the News
January 12, 2017

Starship Technologies, which has been testing robotic delivery of packages in nearly 60 cities worldwide, got an endorsement today from Daimler AG.

The German automaker led a €16.5 million ($17.2 million) seed funding round.

While a lot of public attention has focused on Amazon.com Inc.’s plans for aerial drone delivery, Starship has been moving forward with wheeled drones in an area with less competition and fewer regulations — suburban sidewalks. But there are still challenges of scale, security, and public acceptance.

Business Takeaways:

  • Starship Technologies has built on its relationship with Mercedes-Benz and obtained funding with help from Daimler.
  • The companies are developing autonomous ground vehicles for package delivery, and the general public has already had more than a million encounters with Starship’s robotic delivery.
  • Starship plans to test its systems in more markets, and its co-founder expects robotic delivery to become more common by year’s end.

Last-mile disruption

Starship CEO Ahti Heinla was also co-founder and chief technical architect of Skype before founding Starship.

“After Skype, we didn’t want to think small — we wanted something bigger,” he said during the “Delivery Robots Knocking at Your Door” panel in the Robotics Conference at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show. (Editor’s Note: Sister publication Robotics Trends hosted that conference at CES.)

“Delivery … is one of the last undisrupted industries,” Heinla said. “It’s still largely manual work, not yet automated and ripe for innovation.”

“One thing that hasn’t changed is the cost of manned delivery methods,” he added. “The human is your personal servant. Never mind that a driver has 200 packages in a van. While parking it, knocking on your door, finding a place to leave it — for those minutes, they are your personal servant.”

“You are paying for that — one second is one cent; very roughly, robots are cheaper,” Heinla said. “We can get it down … it’s just a question of time.”

“One of the key reasons why we founded Starship is that we realized that there are no insurmountable technical challenges,” he added. “Human-level AI is not necessary for a robot like that.”

Starship, which has offices in London and Tallinin, Estonia, has built a relatively robust system with multiple sensors.

Strategic partners for robotic delivery

In September, Starship and Mercedes-Benz announced a...

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