Be on the lookout for food delivery robots rolling down your block

Food delivering robots are already hitting sidewalks, but do they adequately protect our dinner?

Food delivering robots are the latest trend when it comes to on-demand delivery. The delivery bots – resembling coolers on wheels – are popping up in cities and college campuses across the UK and United States.

Depending on your location, you'll soon come face-to-face with a food delivering robot yourself, simply by ordering through an app like DoorDash or Postmates.

Kiwi and Starship Technologies are just two of the startups looking to revolutionize the way people experience food delivery with robots. They claim the benefits of robot delivery include lower costs for the client and the consumer, decreased traffic congestion, a more Earth-conscious delivery alternative, and total visibility throughout the entire journey.

At first glance, the robot delivery experience seems fairly similar to what we’re already used to when we decide to order in. Food orders are placed via smartphone apps, where you can choose from a range of restaurants. The robots strive to bring you quick service with a delivery goal of under 30 minutes. But perhaps that's where the similarities end.

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Not your average delivery person

As the future of food delivery is upon us, here are some quick statistics for two different robot prototypes:

• A Starship robot weighs around 40lbs and can deliver about 20lbs worth of items (that’s a lot of late-night fries and milkshakes). As for Kiwi, each bot can carry up to five meals (weight specifications weren’t mentioned on the company’s site).

• Both fleets of robots are outfitted with multiple cameras that utilize artificial intelligence to determine and identify vital elements in its surroundings (i.e. a person vs. a light pole or a sidewalk vs. a street) while it’s out making a delivery.

• Both sets of bots are clean and eco-friendly. Kiwibots run on a rechargeable battery and Starship robots are electronically powered.

As robots continue to zip around town carrying delicious pizzas, burritos, and smoothies that are already paid for, the next plausible question is: what’s stopping someone from stealing my meal?

Pizza protection and sandwich security

Delivery robots powered with state-of-the-art technology are awesome in theory, but if the cargo isn’t safe, what’s the point? Luckily, these startups took takeout-theft into account during the design phase... 

1. The first line of defense is the locked lid. The Kiwibot and the Starship robot both have a locked lid that can only be opened by the original customer via the corresponding app.

2. Cameras serve double duty. The robots’ cameras not only facilitate navigation, but also provide security. Furthermore, if an individual attempts to rob a Starship robot of its delicious delivery or kidnap the robot itself, the cameras snap a picture of the perpetrator and a representative can view the theft in real time.

3. Call for help. If a Starship robot is picked up off the ground an alarm will sound, loudly broadcasting the attempted theft. Also, a company representative can speak directly to violators through the robot’s two-way speakers.

4. Location, location, location. There are several location tracking devices within Starship bots and Kiwibots that enable constant tracking of the machines. In the unlikely event that someone successfully manages to steal the robot, or a customer is innocently counting down the minutes until they receive their order, highly-accurate tracking devices ensure constant traceability.

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Overall, it seems that consumers are willing to take a chance on robot delivery, because these bots are busy! As of March 2019, Kiwi reports over 31,000 orders delivered and Starship Technologies is not far behind with 30,000 deliveries completed as of February 2019.

And as robot delivery startups continue to evolve and expand into new cities and industries (like package delivery), the next time you see a food delivery robot on the street and your stomach is grumbling, do the right thing and order your own.

Topics: Logistics, Editor's Picks, Smart Cities

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