Heavy traffic and inattentive pedestrians may soon be the least of delivery bikers' worries, if a trial by takeaway digital marketplace Just Eat to use self-driving delivery robots makes it off the start line.
The company has partnered with Starship Technologies to test out a small fleet of robots to deliver food on the streets of London.
The robots have been tested previously, and have driven 4,000 miles already in cities around the world. The commercial testing programme is set to begin within the next few months and further details of the restaurants involved are set to be announced shortly.
It is not yet known how many robots will be involved in the trial but they are expected to make deliveries of up to a mile in distance on public roads and pavements in the city centre. Each robot can carry the equivalent of about six pizzas.
Provided that is successful, the radius for delivery could increase to two or three miles.
Just Eat would not reveal precisely how much each robot costs but they are thought to be in the low thousands of pounds each. An individual delivery is expected to cost around £1.
Starship Technologies, established in 2014 by the co-founders of Skype, has developed the robots to deliver food, packages and goods to consumers within a short radius of their point of origin. Customers will be sent a secure code to access their meals from the robots once they arrive.
Fernando Fanton, chief product & technology officer at Just Eat, said: "This is another example of how we are pushing technology boundaries to provide our customers and restaurant partners with more choice and flexibility. We've always been committed to offering our customers new ways to order and pay for their food and now we're right at the heart of a new way of delivering food which is as exciting for us as it will be for those who find a robot on their doorstep."
David Buttress, CEO of Just Eat, said: "As soon as we met the Starship team, we found their passion for their product infectious. With scalable innovation at the core of their business, they are the perfect partner for us at Just Eat as we continuously look for sustainable ways to use technology to make our customers' and restaurant partners' lives easier. We can't wait to bring the delivery robots to local high streets very soon."
The robots are designed to drive autonomously while being monitored by human operators in control centres who can take over at any time. Introduced to European and American cities since the end of last year, the robots have already driven close to 5,000 miles and met over 400,000 people without a single accident, using cameras, sensors and other technology to navigate their way through urban streets.
The trials come as Just Eat is preparing to launch an ordering service on Apple TV, and its first smart TV app, initially with Amazon Fire TV.
Competition in the food delivery business is heating up, with transportation service Uber announcing that it would launch its delivery service UberEATS in this country, and Deliveroo recently signing a major deal with PizzaExpress.