With the announcement that it will soon deploy sidewalk robots developed in Miami, Florida, Uber is expanding its usage of autonomous delivery vehicles.
Cartken, an Oakland-based AI company created by a team of ex-Google engineers known for deploying its vehicles on college campuses, will provide the six-wheeled delivery robots.
The robots will deliver items from various companies in Miami-Dade County’s Dadeland neighbourhood, with plans to extend into wider portions of the city and maybe more markets in 2023. Uber states that its collaboration with Cartken is the “first formal relationship with a worldwide on-demand delivery app beyond college campuses.”
“We are excited about how this partnership with Uber will bring the advantages of robotics to food delivery — and ultimately create more connected communities,” said Cartken CEO Christian Bersch in a press release.
“Together, we have the opportunity to reduce traffic congestion, help local merchants to increase delivery capacity, and bring consumers fast, convenient, and emission-free deliveries.”
On many college campuses and in a few towns and localities, sidewalk delivery robots are becoming widespread. Unfortunately, numerous instances of robots becoming caught in the snow, being run over by cars, or catching fire have surfaced.
Cartken’s robots are electric, with a trunk that can hold nearly two dozen pounds of cargo and a variety of embedded cameras that can be used to detect obstacles and direct the robot to its destination. Magna, an auto supplier, produces Cartken’s robots.
The delivery radius of the robots is several miles, but they can only travel at a speed slightly slower than walking, which is obviously slower than delivery by a human on a bike or in a car. They can also climb curbs but not stairs, which may limit their appeal to multistory building residents.
Uber is becoming more comfortable using self-driving vehicles for ride-hailing trips and deliveries. The company has a 10-year agreement with Nuro to use its delivery trucks in California and Texas. In addition, it is embarking on a robot delivery pilot in Los Angeles with Serve Robotics and Motional.
In Las Vegas, Uber is also advertising Motional’s robotaxis for ride-hailing customers on its app.