The brave new automated world of delivery is upon us. After seeing loads of trial runs from the likes of Chipotle, Domino’s, Amazon, and even the French postal service, serious big city robot delivery programs are getting underway. As of this week, Yelp Eat24 is using robots in a couple San Francisco neighborhoods to deliver food.
Yes, robots will be roaming around crowded city streets, and no, they won’t be directly controlled by a human. How will this work? It’s a familiar answer — LIDAR and GPS. LIDAR is a kind of laser scanning system that allows robots to create a visualization of the world around them, which allows the driving software to stay on a straight path and avoid obstacles, cars, and people. GPS will guide the robot first to the restaurant to make a pickup, then to the home of whoever has put in the order.
The robots have been developed by a company called Marble, and while the bots don’t look quite as cool as the one the Vespa makers cooked up, they get the job done. The four-foot tall robots have heavy-duty metal exteriors and wheels, plus interchangeable cargo bays that can suit different kinds of delivery, from groceries to pizza.
But, you’re probably wondering what happens if someone tries to thieve a delivery on the street. Well, they won’t be easy to plunder. Those cargo bay doors are locked tight, and the only way to get them open (aside from a LOT of brute force) is with a passcode sent to the phone of the intended recipient.
Robot delivery is still just in trial mode, though. The robots will all have human chaperones for now, and will only make 1 to 1.5-mile delivery trips in the Mission and Potrero Hill neighborhoods of San Francisco.