The entire tech world is bent on trying to automate everything in life, whether it is autonomous vehicles, delivery drones, or even surgical robots. Google, Amazon, and UPS are working on ambitious drone delivery projects, but they are still not mature enough to be fully practical yet. Rolling autonomous robots, however, seem to be the more efficient and reasonably successful. Starship technologies have previously employed such robots in the streets of Germany and Netherlands for pizza delivery. This time Yelp has partnered with another San Francisco-based startup Marble to create food delivery robots that will roll along the sidewalks of the city. The bots have been seen operating in San Francisco streets since the beginning of April.
Yelp’s Eat24 food delivery program and Marble together have launched the robot food delivery program for San Francisco. The robots will replace the delivery personnel, rolling to the restaurant, picking up the food package and delivering it to customer’s location. The customer will receive a pin for opening the robot’s cargo area before it reaches their door.
The robot is equipped with lidar, sensors, and cameras and uses 3D maps for navigation at all times. The 3D maps prevent the robot from bumping into any pedestrians. If you are uncomfortable with getting a robot at your doorstep, you can choose to get your food delivered by a person instead.
Unlike most other drone or robot delivery projects, the aim of this project is to ensure smooth operations and greater reliability. A person will accompany the robots, and another will monitor it remotely via a video camera. The person along with the robot can get user feedback and report any problems occurred. As the robots prove to be more reliable, the companies will act to reduce the human costs. Yelp usually offers restaurants to deliver food themselves or use a third party delivery service, but it is up to the restaurants to chose between a robot delivery service or the traditional human service.
Once such robots become successful, they will be responsible for cutting delivery cost by a huge margin and Marble will not stick to food delivery alone, as they say on their website:
Our robots use a hybrid-autonomy system with people at the core of their operations. They use advanced sensors and high-resolution 3D city maps to efficiently and politely navigate busy urban environments. Our robots have swappable cargo bays to transport various types of goods – the best way to transport warm meals isn’t necessarily the best way to transport medicine.
While this may not be the first robot delivery of its kind, but the method has legal complications. It was only a month ago that Virginia became the first US state passing legislation allowing operation of delivery robots on sidewalks all across the state beginning July 1. The main hand behind the law was Starship technologies. There might be some more legal changes to the legislation that imposes the requirement for a permit from the city for robot delivery operations. The payment for the permit is according the blocks covered in the routes.
Whether it is the rolling or the flying robots, the world seems prepared for it, and the technology is proving itself somewhat reliable. When will your food and goods roll or fly to your house in robots? We do not know, but we sure are excited for it to happen.