Mobility giant Bolt is using self-driving Starship robots for food delivery

European ride-hailing company Bolt will use self-driving robots to deliver customers’ food as part of a new partnership with Estonian company Starship Technologies, announced yesterday.

Bolt, one of Europe’s most valued technology companies, plans to roll out thousands of robots in multiple countries, starting in its home city of Tallinn later this year.

Bolt, a competitor of Uber, has more than 100 million customers in Europe, Africa, West Asia and Latin America. Starship has since completed 5 million commercial deliveries around the world, the first autonomous delivery company to do so.

“It’s normal for two companies — one making deliveries and the other developing a more efficient way to make deliveries — working together,” said Ahti Heinla, co-founder of Starship, who previously served as chief architect at Skype.

Founded in 2013 and formerly known as Taxify, Bolt has raised nearly $2 billion in funding to date, with a valuation of $7.6 billion. It made a name for itself as a ride-hailing service, but has since expanded into several other industries, including food and grocery delivery and e-scooters.

Starship, headquartered in Silicon Valley and founded by former Skype executives, has raised more than €180 million to date and already operates a fleet of delivery vans in the US and UK. In the US, the service is mainly used by university students in partnership with food delivery service Grubhub, while in the UK Starship has a similar deal with UK supermarket chains Co-op and Tesco.

“Both Bolt and Starship have developed innovative products that have revolutionized the way people move, buy and receive goods in cities,” said Yevgeny Kabanov, President of Bolt.

Starship’s robots deliver food to Bolt customers directly into the Bolt app, just like regular deliveries. Once the robot arrives at your door, you can press a button to open it and receive your meals or groceries.

A major appeal of the robots, which are about the size of a suitcase, is that they are emission-free and use about as much energy for one delivery as a kettle uses to make a cup of tea.

Since launching its autonomous delivery service in Milton Keynes, UK, in April 2018, an independent study estimates that 280,000 car journeys have been avoided, a saving of 137 tons CO2 and 22 kg NOx emissions.

“Bolt and Starship share very similar goals to promote sustainability in local transportation. In our case, we offer a convenient and on-demand autonomous delivery service, which fits perfectly with the mission of making cities more environmentally friendly,” said Alastair Westgarth, CEO of Starship Technologies.