Delivery robots were spotted forming an orderly queue to use a pedestrian crossing – one of them asking a passerby to press the button for them.
Footage showed Starship Technologies’ food delivery robots patiently waiting to cross the road as part of its new Cambridge trial this month.
Cyclist Naomi Davies spotted the group of robots on the sidewalk and said she waited three light changes before crossing the road.
As they waited in line, one of the robots asked a woman to press the button for them. Starship said the robots weren’t “shy” so they were happy to ask strangers for help when they needed it.
Naomi Davies was cycling home when she came across seven delivery robots (five pictured) in an orderly queue waiting to cross the road. The robots waited three light changes before one was brave enough to cross. One of the bots even asked a passerby if she was going to press the button for them.
Ms Davies, who took the photos, said there were seven robots in total, two out of the picture.
The machines look like little white plastic boxes on six wheels, fitted with a bright orange flag that lights up at night, so motorists and pedestrians can see them as they frolic.
She told the BBC: ‘I thought the first one was going to go off when the lights changed, but it just started maneuvering and moving around a bit and then stopped.
Starship Technologies robots are currently being used in Cambridge as part of a trail between Cambridgeshire County Council and the Co-op to deliver groceries to the town’s 12,000 residents.
“At one point a dog walked by and a robot kind of wobbled around the dog and then seemed to get stuck.
“One of the robots asked a lady if she could press the button. I think she was rather surprised that a robot was talking to her.”
The cyclist waited for a robot to cross Coleridge Road and Davy Road on Tuesday evening, but was unsure how long the others took as it was cold, and she wanted to get home.
The photo of the robots sparked a lot of comments on Facebook, with the majority of people asking how the crouching robots are supposed to reach the button.
One said: ‘I almost felt the need to get out of my car to trigger the traffic lights. Somehow they look so sad waiting on the sidewalk.
Another asked: “How do they trigger traffic lights?”
Since the start of the trial, sightings of the small machines have become more frequent, amusing locals with their queuing system.
This is not the first try of the Starship robot delivery service. During the pandemic, robots have been used in Milton Keynes to deliver food to people during the coronavirus lockdown
One person claimed: ‘I saw one coming up our route on Saturday afternoon. A family had ordered a birthday cake for the father and when the lid opened his lights came on and he played Happy Birthday to him.
Another added: “They live in a unit behind the Vue Cinema area, every night they come home in a precession. quite funny to watch. I wonder if they were the ones starting their day.
Others said the robots were “cute” and that Cambridge residents were resisting the temptation to “stick googly eyes on them”.
The squat machines travel on sidewalks and can reach speeds of 4 mph. They resist rain and snow
Even the animals don’t seem to be afraid of it. One woman said: “My dog loves them, he thinks they’re dogs in disguise.”
The trial is currently running in partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council and the Co-op with 12,000 residents in 5,000 homes receiving deliveries from their local store.
They have already been deployed on the streets of Cambourne, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Bedford.
During the coronavirus lockdown, the popularity of knee-high robots in Milton Keynes has grown. The robots have even delivered free food to NHS workers.
The trial is also set to take place in parts of Leeds, with 20,000 residents of Adel and Tinshill able to order their groceries from nearby Co-op stores.
WHAT ARE STARSHIP TECHNOLOGIES DELIVERY ROBOTS?
The London-based company was set up by Skype’s Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis in 2014.
Slow delivery robots have already been tested around the world, including in Hamburg, Washington and here in the UK, delivering everything from groceries to takeaway pizza.
They drove over 100,000 miles in test mode in over 100 cities in 20 different countries.
Unlike robots designed to look like humans, Starship’s bot is purely functional with a large compartment to hold deliveries, the equivalent size of two grocery bags.
Each six-wheeled “land drone” is fully autonomous.
Workers can drop a pin on a map (like Uber) to show their location, then select the food they want to order.
Each vehicle is 55 cm (22 inches) high and 70 cm (28 inches) long.
It has a secure compartment where packages with a maximum weight of 10 kg (22 pounds) can be transported, accessible to consumers via a link generated by a smartphone application.
They have six wheels and can move at speeds of up to 4 mph (6.4 km/h) per hour.
They primarily travel on sidewalks, can climb sidewalks, and operate in rain and snow.
The company has already carried out trials in several cities in England, including Cambourne, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Bedford.
A spokesperson for Starship Technologies said: ‘Robots perform more than 140,000 level crossings each day around the world, nearly one every three seconds, using a combination of sensors, artificial intelligence and machine learning to navigate safely.
“Most of these crossings are done autonomously, but in the rare cases where assistance is needed, the robots can be monitored remotely.
“It’s also true that once in a while, robots are quick to ask a friendly resident for help if they can’t quite reach the button, especially in a new area they have recently started mapping.
“Although in some places around the world, robots can now automatically ‘talk’ to the traffic light, eliminating the need to press the button. But they’re also very happy to wait in a queue – they’re in England, after all.