Takeaway app Just Eat to test delivery robots
Takeaway food ordering service Just Eat has announced it will trial delivery robots in London this year.
Currently, food ordered via the service is delivered by restaurant staff.
Just Eat will deploy autonomous robots developed by Starship Technologies to deliver orders from a limited selection of restaurants.
The company said the robots had already been introduced in cities overseas and had driven 5,000 miles without any accidents.
Starship Technologies' delivery robots are small, autonomously driven vehicles that can carry packages over short distances.
Each robot has onboard cameras to monitor its surroundings, and human operators in a command centre can take over control of the device if necessary.
The compartment containing the food will be secured by an access code.
"There is a lot of talk in the industry of this sort of automation, and the use of drones as well, but there are many health and safety and compliance issues to overcome," said Bryan Roberts, analyst at TCC Global.
"Unleashing these robots on the street carries an inherent risk, and may even show a naive view of human nature and people's desire to interfere with this type of technology."
In May, Starship Technologies' chief executive Ahti Heinla told the BBC that there had been no examples of the general public hijacking his robots.
"People do not actually interfere with it on the pavement," he said.
"We have driven thousands of miles with robots like this... and the vast majority of people just ignore it."
German retailer Metro Group, parcel delivery company Hermes and London-based food delivery service Pronto are also trialling the robots.
The robots face competition from start-ups such as Deliveroo, which pays people a small fee for each meal they deliver.
"It's a laudable and adventurous idea, but I also wonder how this could be rolled out at scale when there is already a very low cost human alternative," said Mr Roberts.