Courier company Hermes has announced a partnership with Starship Technologies to begin trialling the use of self-driving robots to deliver packages in Southwark, London.

Hermes has already completed trials in Hamburg, Germany, and is now bringing its army of robot minions to the streets of London. Hermes says it wants to use the trial to see how the robots "could enhance the company’s ability to offer an increased range of on-demand solutions in the future, as part of its ongoing commitment to providing value-added services".

The trial will offer a limited number of thirty-minute slots for the robots to collect parcels, either from customers returning items to retailers, or for packages being sent via myHermes. Hermes hopes the robots will eventually be able to offer enhanced tracking and scheduling capabilities.

It's not the first time we've heard about autonomous delivery robots, but so far they've been limited to drones, such as Amazon Prime Air, and even UPS and Ford are looking to get in on the action. However, Hermes says they're six-wheeled robots that roam the streets are a suitable substitute, especially in cities as there can be aviation restrictions in place.

The robots measure 55cm high by 70cm long, and have a secure compartment that can carry packages up to 10kg. The only way to open the compartment is with a link generated within a smartphone app, so you don't need to worry about your items being stolen while they're on their way to you. Especially as the robots have no way of defending themselves. You may need to wait a short while for your package though, as they can only travel up to 4mph. 

Hermes' robots will work within a limited range of 2 miles from a control centre, where the vehicles will be stored and charged. Hermes says it plans to make them 99 per cent autonomous, but will always be connected to a human controller via the internet and GPS, in case of any emergencies. If an issue did arise, the human operator will be able to take over the robot and control it at any time.

Carole Woodhead, CEO of Hermes, said: “Starship Technologies is a highly innovative and pioneering firm. We are extremely pleased to utilise their expertise to explore exciting new ways that will further strengthen our portfolio of services and offer greater choice and convenience for customers".

"We can already see first-hand the success they’ve had with food deliveries in London, and we are excited to team up with them in a bid to revolutionise the home delivery marketplace".

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