Robots in Milton Keynes are delivering shopping to NHS staff for free as working long hours during the COVID-19 crisis means they sometimes do not have time to visit stores.
There has been a large rise in the use of the machines by healthcare workers since the nationwide lockdown was introduced a month ago.
The restrictions were brought in just after US-based Starship Technologies expanded its delivery service to include more neighbourhoods in Milton Keynes.
The company, which owns the fleet of 70 machines, has been operating robots in the town since 2018.
Now a familiar sight on the streets, the white, box-like robots are about knee height, and big enough to hold several bags of food shopping as well as several bottles.
The robots have what looks like an antenna, topped with a small red flag to make them easier to spot as they deliver around the neighbourhood, and travel on pavements at a top speed of 4mph.
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Despite the rise in demand, the robots have been delivering to health workers free of charge.
“Right now we are offering free delivery to all NHS workers within the community. We want to make life a little bit easier for these people in these very, very stressful times,” said Henry Harris-Burland of Starship.
“Lots of them are doing…80-hour weeks and they don’t have time to go to the local grocery store, so they use our robots for their shopping,” he said. “We’re honoured that we can be part of that solution.”
Mr Harris-Burland said his company’s machines had completed 100,000 autonomous deliveries in the town.
“Lots of the residents have been reaching out to us online asking us to deliver into their neighbourhood,” he said.
“We’re doing everything we can as quickly as possible to expand to offer this service to more people, especially at this really important time.”