Co-op delivery robots take to the streets of Bedford and Kempston


Three Co-op stores in Bedford and Kempston are revolutionising grocery shopping with the launch of a fleet of delivery robots.

Following successful pilot schemes in Milton Keynes, Cambridge and Northampton, the automated delivery units are now being rolled out – literally – on the streets of Bedford and have caused quite a stir.

One resident said: “Just spotted these on Queen’s Drive. They even ask a human to press the button at the pedestrian crossing and then wait for the green man!”

The zero-carbon electric robots are part of a pilot project in a collaboration between Bedford Borough Council, Starship Technologies and the Co-op.

It means that up to 45,000 residents across 20,000 households can get quick deliveries of products selected fresh locally from local Co-op stores in Goldington, Queens Drive and Kempston.

An average delivery for a Starship robot consumes as little energy as boiling a kettle to make just one cup of tea and orders can be made through the Starship food delivery app, which is available for download on iOS and Android.

After ordering, groceries are picked fresh from the local Co-op store and shopping is delivered directly to the doorsteps of Bedford via a fleet of Starship’s autonomous robots in as little as one hour or less.

Co-op delivery robots Queen's Drive
Co-op delivery robots Queen’s Drive. Image: Bedford Independent

The project already operates successfully in six countries around the world, including same-day grocery deliveries with Co-op in communities across Milton Keynes, Northampton and Cambridgeshire.

Starship was created by the co-founders of Skype in 2014. Since launching commercial deliveries in 2018, Starship’s robots have travelled more than 4 million miles and safely completed more than 3.5 million deliveries. Around the world, the robots make 140,000 road crossings every day, equivalent to three road crossings every second.

“I’m delighted that the council and Starship are working together with Co-op for innovative solutions to grocery delivery,” said Mayor Dave Hodgson.

“It is exciting to see the robots on our streets.

“It has the potential to make life easier for thousands of residents across Bedford and Kempston while also reducing congestion. Hopefully, the trial will be a success which would allow us to extend the benefits of quick and easy deliveries to more people across the Borough.”

Co-op delivery robots
Co-op delivery robots. Image: Starship Technologies

Chris Conway, eCommerce Director, Co-op, said: “As a convenience retailer, the ability to come into stores will always be important to customers, but we also know that shoppers want flexible and convenient options online, and so we are focused on providing what our customers want and need, however and wherever they choose to shop with us.”

Bedford and Kempston residents will be able to choose from a range of grocery items, schedule their delivery, then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent.

Having a picnic? Get your food and drink delivered directly to your picnic mat.

You can watch in real-time via an interactive map as the robot makes its journey to you. Once the robot arrives they receive an alert and can meet and unlock it through the app.

“The robots are lightweight and travel at the speed of a pedestrian (no faster than 4mph),” said a statement from Co-op.

“They use a combination of sensors, artificial intelligence and machine learning to travel on pavements and navigate around any obstacles, while computer vision-based navigation helps them map their environment to the nearest inch.”