12 Robots Leading the Way in Food Delivery
Delivery robots are set to transform food and grocery deliveries as more grocers, restaurants and even food brands see an opportunity to offer convenience for their customers while keeping last-mile delivery costs down.
While there are still some unanswered questions and problems to be solved around robots roaming around your city to deliver your food and goods, not least what happens when a prankster tips one over, it seems that we’re not too far away from sharing the pavements with these (hopefully) friendly creatures.
In this blog post, we compared some of the delivery robots doing a great job to deliver food and goods, but we’re not ready to choose our favourite just yet.
1. Starship Technologies Delivers Your Groceries and Pizza
Starship technologies is a California-based startup that launched in 2014. Their robots have “walked” more than 150,000 miles so far.
Some of their more recent partnerships include grocers Co-op and Tesco and their robots have also been successful in delivering pizzas to hungry students around university campuses.
Starship robots are well-equipped to protect themselves and their goods from being stolen. They walk around with 9 cameras allowing shoppers to track the location of their delivery in their apps. In 2017, you would have to use a PIN to unlock the robot and take your order, but today, this is simplified and you can unlock it with a button in your app.
These little six-wheeled machines, however, have their downsides too. They travel 4mph and can reach you only if you’re in the 3-mile radius from them. You can only make a purchase through the Starship app and not via Co-op or Tesco’s website. There is a limit of products available currently as well. For example, for Co-op delivery, you can choose from a range of just 200 products.
2. Scout – Amazon’s Autonomous Delivery Robot
It seems that Amazon has arrived late to the delivery robot game, having won lot’s of coverage for their drone programme, but their Scout is here now and ready to start competing with the older and more experienced bots.
In a challenge to make its delivery cheaper, faster and more convenient, Amazon has developed Scout in their research and development lab in Seattle as one of their latest innovations.
Scout went for its first, and then (probably) the second, and third, and many more walks around Snohomish County, Washington. Scout is still taking the baby steps and is followed by a human companion to make sure that the bot doesn’t run into pedestrians or other roadblocks.
According to Amazon, it is a size of a small cooler and Scout only picks up a walking pace.
For now, Scout only serves Amazon’s Prime customers who request same-day, one-day or two-day delivery.
3. Snackbot – PepsiCo Delivers Healthy Snacks to Students
PepsiCo’s six-wheeled robots were developed by Robby Technologies and are delivering snacks from PepsiCo’s better-for-you snacks portfolio.
They are currently roaming around the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif campus and serving their students with healthy snacks from the Hello Goodness portfolio.
It is the first time that a food & beverage company has tested a delivery robot.
The delivery is currently limited to working hours and these bots can run 20 miles without a recharge.
And as theft and damage remains one of the biggest concerns when it comes to delivery bots, PepsiCo says it trusts students that they will not try to steal or hurt these little bots (good luck with that! ;0).
4. Serve – Postmates’ Friendly Robot
Postmates, a logistics company that delivers products and goods, has started developing their friendly robot Serve internally and with the help of the design firm NewDealDesign they’ve brought Serve to life as a friendly neighbour – someone you could relate to and maybe even say hi to when you walk past him (we mean it) in the streets.
Why this matters? It seems that people are still not being very friendly around robots – and the reasons are many. However, no one can be rude to Serve after he looks at you with his big (camera) eyes.
Postmates is testing Serve in Los Angeles with a plan to expand to other US cities in 2019.
Serve can travel 30 miles in one charge and can carry 50 pounds worth of goods. It even includes sensors and cameras for consumer interaction. And if you’re frustrated by the current shortcomings in Serve’s UX, just press a button on top to call a (human) agent.
Serve definitely wins the first place when it comes to design (though we said we’re not picking favourites). Serve’s design, however, is expected to be customized by local artists to make its friendly neighbourhood design pop.
With its look that obviously reminds of a shopping cart, it is a perfect symbol for e-commerce.
5. Kiwi campus bots
Kiwi bots have caught the attention of many when they themselves got caught on fire. However, except this (not that small) glitch, they seem to have been doing a pretty good job of delivering food to hungry students.
The delivery actually consists of 3 steps, which was introduced after the company noticed that their delivery from the restaurant to the end consumer wasn’t efficient. They’ve introduced a robot that takes the order from the restaurant and delivers it to a delivery person who then drives the bots to the area where they will be left by themselves to complete the last 0.2 miles.
These bots have fulfilled more than 10,000 orders so far.
6. R1 – Nuro’s Autonomous Vehicle Without Safety Drivers
In 2018, Nuro launched its first unmanned delivery services which they have been developing since 2016. Together with Kroger, Nuro has added their vehicles to Scottsdale, Arizona to bring groceries to consumers.
Unlike all the above, Nuro’s vehicle travels on roads instead of sharing the pavement with pedestrians. R1 lasts all day without the need to recharge and has no people on board. It only carries groceries.
R1 can carry 12 bags of groceries and will try its best to find its way around the neighborhood to find you. What happens if the vehicle can’t find its way, remains open.
7. Grocery Store on Wheels – Stop & Shop Brings Grocery Stores to Consumers
Stop & Shop has partnered with Robomart to revive the old way of delivering groceries. Similar to the way the milkman would knock on your great-grandmother’s doors to bring her fresh milk, Robomart’s grocery store on wheels comes to your door and lets you hand pick fresh products or meal kits.
Using checkout-free technology, it simplifies the payment for the consumer as you pay for what you take out from the vehicle automatically.
The grocery store on wheels is being operated remotely, bringing some to question whether it will create problems in legislation because there is no safety driver.
8. Walmart’s CarGo Vans Deliver Groceries
Walmart is taking a pilot program with Udelv to test autonomous vans that will deliver groceries in Surprise, Arizona.
Udelv will use a cargo van to deliver fresh groceries, hand-picked by Walmart’s personal shoppers, to customers.
But whether Walmart sticks with Udelv remains to be seen. In the past year or so, Walmart has been trying every option to try and find a perfect solution to deliver their products to customers.
To name a few: testing Ford self-driving cars, partnering with Postmates, a logistics company, and last year they had a pilot project with Waymo, another self-driving company.
9. CargoPod – Ocado Technology
Ocado Technology trialled the first UK driverless delivery in partnership with the GATEway Project, TRL, and Oxbotica in 2017.
In this trial, customers ordered groceries from a website built by Ocado Technology. Unlike R1 or Robomart’s vehicle, CargoPod was tested with a safety driver inside the vehicle. The video shows a delivery person stepping out of the vehicle and handing the groceries to customers, making this delivery less automated than the ones we’ve listed above.
There is no information available whether Ocado Technology will be using CargoPods in the future.
Marble, “your friendly neighborhood robot” has been walking around San Francisco, cruising at 5 miles per hour and delivering your groceries, pharmacies and other goods since 2017.
Marble started as a courier robot but has since expanded to deliver your food as well. They partnered with Yelp Eat24 to deliver orders to consumers.
11. Alibaba – G Plus
Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce and retail company, developed a driverless robot that runs 9 mph to deliver packages to consumers.
The robot is named G Plus and has been tested first in Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou.
Its box changes size based on the package size and is equipped for delivering fresh groceries as well.
Boxbot was founded by engineers from Tesla and Uber.
This bot is almost as high as its human companions and according to the video above, the customer was quite excited to get her groceries delivered by this nice-looking orange robot.
Boxbot started testing in Walnut Creek, Calif in 2018.
Although it remains unclear whether we’ll end up tipping these robots when they bring us food, one thing is sure: robots are taking over food & grocery delivery. With robot delivery market expected to triple by 2024, it’s not hard to imagine in 5 years time, we’ll be walking side by side with these robots on the streets and not thinking twice about it.