Leeds delivery robot trial with 72% positive feedback rate may be extended

  • Report by Natalie Higgins

A council running a trial of delivery robots says it may be extended after a survey showed 72% positive feedback from residents.

Leeds City Council have been working with Starship Technologies and supermarket chain Co-op in the Adel and Tinshill areas of the city to test out an autonomous delivery service with the aim of reducing carbon emissions.

A council spokesperson said although the trial is due to end on 4th March, there are ongoing "evidence-based discussions" about extending it in the area.

"It's really easy, really quite efficient to use as well," said one customer, Freya. "We were worried about whether they'd actually make it, but you can track it all like you would a taxi, so it's been really good."

Ben Jackson, a team leader at the Co-op in Adel says the people in the community have embraced the robots, even sending Christmas cards to them.

"We're getting a lot of families taking pictures with their children," he said.

"We're getting a lot of feedback from customers asking if [the service] will be kept on."

Orders are made through an app for a minimum delivery fee of 99p. Their items are picked in the two Co-op stores on Spen Lane and Otley Road and then sent on their way inside one of the robots.

The robots will ask nearby pedestrians to press the traffic light button to help them cross the road. Credit: ITV News

Customers can order their delivery to arrive in under an hour and watch the robot travel in real-time on their device. They then get an alert when it arrives and unlock it on the app.

The trial follows others in Milton Keynes, Bedford, Northampton, Cambourne, and Cambridge, which Starship say have saved an estimated 1.1 million miles of car journeys and 445 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

The robots travel at the same speed as a pedestrian, and according to Starship have an average power consumption per trip equal to boiling a kettle for a cup of tea.

"Leeds is so far the largest city where we have launched, it's also one of the busiest cities as well," said Sandra Sooläte, the company's head of business development.

"We're really hoping to reduce congestion and eliminate those small car trips off the streets."

Leeds councillor Helen Hayden said at the time the trial started: “Since the pandemic, we have seen a huge increase in the number of home deliveries.

"This pilot will be transformative and will provide an alternative home delivery provision which will particularly benefit residents with mobility problems or those facing other challenges which make accessing local facilities difficult."

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