Sidewalk Robots are Now Delivering Food in Miami
18-inch tall robots on four wheels zipping across city sidewalks “stopped people in their tracks as they whipped out their camera phones,” reports the Florida Sun-Sentinel.

“The bots’ mission: To deliver restaurant meals cheaply and efficiently, another leap in the way food comes to our doors and our tables.”

The semiautonomous vehicles were engineered by Kiwibot, a company started in 2017 to game-change the food delivery landscape…

In May, Kiwibot sent a 10-robot fleet to Miami as part of a nationwide pilot program funded by the Knight Foundation. The program is driven to understand how residents and consumers will interact with this type of technology, especially as the trend of robot servers grows around the country. And though Broward County is of interest to Kiwibot, Miami-Dade County officials jumped on board, agreeing to launch robots around neighborhoods such as Brickell, downtown Miami and several others, in the next couple of weeks… “Our program is completely focused on the residents of Miami-Dade County and the way they interact with this new technology. Whether it’s interacting directly or just sharing the space with the delivery bots,” said Carlos Cruz-Casas, with the county’s Department of Transportation…

Remote supervisors use real-time GPS tracking to monitor the robots. Four cameras are placed on the front, back and sides of the vehicle, which the supervisors can view on a computer screen. [A spokesperson says later in the article “there is always a remote and in-field team looking for the robot.”] If crossing the street is necessary, the robot will need a person nearby to ensure there is no harm to cars or pedestrians. The plan is to allow deliveries up to a mile and a half away so robots can make it to their destinations in 30 minutes or less.
Earlier Kiwi tested its sidewalk-travelling robots around the University of California at Berkeley, where at least one of its robots burst into flames. But the Sun-Sentinel reports that “In about six months, at least 16 restaurants came on board making nearly 70,000 deliveries…

“Kiwibot now offers their robotic delivery services in other markets such as Los Angeles and Santa Monica by working with the Shopify app to connect businesses that want to employ their robots.” But while delivery fees are normally $3, this new Knight Foundation grant “is making it possible for Miami-Dade County restaurants to sign on for free.”

A video shows the reactions the sidewalk robots are getting from pedestrians on a sidewalk, a dog on a leash, and at least one potential restaurant customer looking forward to no longer having to tip human food-delivery workers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

By admin