High street retailer Wilko has invested £3m in UK autonomous delivery company StreetDrone as the companies plan to bring autonomous deliveries to Wilko consumers by the end of 2023. 

Image of StreetDrone's autonomous delivery vehicle

The £3m investment from the retailer will be focused on the development and eventual deployment of StreetDrone’s driverless Pix-e delivery vehicle, as well as its accompanying delivery system and app.

The Pix-e is planned to be half the width of a normal car, will drive on residential roads and travel at a maximum speed of 20mph.

The vehicles, which will be electric and carbon-neutral, are expected to operate on a six-mile radius from a Wilko store, with set vehicles to service-specific neighbourhood branches.

Each Pix-e is also expected to have six to eight lockers which will contain individual deliveries. Customers will then be expected to meet the vehicle on the roadside, having been alerted to its arrival by the accompanying app.

Although the numbers of Pix-e vehicles that Wilko will eventually work with is still uncertain, StreetDrone looks set to begin trials of the vehicle on private test tracks in the middle of 2022.

Vehicle safety is the key debate

StreetDrone is also working with both UK and European-based vehicle safety agencies on defining the safety regulations that will accompany the arrival of autonomous delivery services.

Image of StreetDrone's autonomous delivery vehicle

Wilko chief executive Jerome Saint-Marc told Retail Week that while the investment may come as “a bit of a surprise”, the retailer’s decision to invest aligns with the changes in consumer behaviour that have accelerated over the pandemic.

“What we’ve seen, which has been exacerbated through the pandemic, has been that customers really value convenience and that convenience journey is not going to stop,” he said. 

”Therefore, how do you maintain that convenience in a way that is the most effective, efficient and also guilt-free?”

Saint-Marc added that Wilko hopes to be the first to market with this new development. 

StreetDrone co-founder Mike Potts said the company is also considering expanding its offer into food delivery and grocery, but stressed that safety and consumer confidence would drive the development of any autonomous delivery retail partnership. 

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