the future

Robot Food Deliveries Arrive in D.C. and Silicon Valley

There’s one in action now.

Couch-prone residents of Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. can now get their seasonal Starbucks lattes delivered judgment-free by a robot. Starship Technologies, a robotics start-up run by two Skype co-founders, has put a handful of its autonomous rovers to work delivering orders for both Postmates and DoorDash.

Recode reports the robots in question are about 2 feet tall, weigh 40 pounds, and have a maximum speed of 4 miles an hour. That’s “walking speed,” but still relatively slow when the competition’s using cars and bikes; to address that handicap, the company for a while tried chauffeuring bots around in Mercedes vans, then letting them out within a mile of the final destination — which, to be clear, would still mean a 15-minute journey from there. It’s not clear if Starship is using that system now, but here’s one fella making a cookie delivery all by itself a few months ago in the Bay Area:

Recode adds that, for now, handlers are also chaperoning robots during deliveries. The humans are there to “take notes” on the progress of the machines that will eventually steal their jobs, and are on-hand to intervene “if something goes wrong.” Otherwise, though, it should be just like the GrubHub guy: Rovers show up at the eatery, pick up the order, haul it to the customer’s address, then move on to the next restaurant. Unlike an actual human, though, the robots don’t accept tips, and probably can’t call your cell phone to argue that you need to meet them down in the lobby.

Robot Food Deliveries Arrive in D.C. and Silicon Valley