Food delivery services during a pandemic may not have been the plan but certainly may turn out to be the opportunity robotics was looking for to shine. As the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to social distance it is also pushing some robotics companies to accelerate their long-term objectives. You may not be seeing them on your doorstep just yet but with the clear appeal to less human-involved food delivery companies are seeing massive spikes in demand.
Starship Robots is one such company, created in 2014 by two Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, with an initial business model to deploy the delivery robots across university campuses. Now that students are no longer on-site, sitting idle wasn’t an option, so Starship immediately turned to grocery stores and restaurants in the towns where they are located. It’s worth mentioning that the company’s robots have already been operating in over 100 cities in 20 countries around the world.
Here in the U.S. they will soon be expanding into Frisco, TX, making it the third U.S. city, following behind Fairfax, VA, and Tempe, AZ. One thing Frisco, Fairfax, and Tempe all have in common is their close proximity to a college or university that Starship had previously been targeting. The company was also targeting college campuses in Houston, TX, Madison, WI, Pittsburgh, PA, or West Lafayette, Indiana, meaning you can probably expect to see the robots there soon as well.
Robot deliveries still remain rare enough that it’s easy to dismiss them as curiosities, but that seems to be changing. The technology is actually working now and Starship’s services, spurred by demand from locked-down customers, could soon soar. I’m told Starship and Kiwibot, another robotics delivery service, are both scrambling to build new robots and roll out service to new areas in the face of unprecedented interest and demand.
Obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg for this sector but I thought it was worth putting on your radar and doing a deeper dive with homework. Eventually, I hear there will be bigger, faster robots that actually travel in the street to reach customers in many suburban and rural areas. Starship’s rapid growth under these circumstances is certainly a sign of where the food delivery space will be headed in the next decade. It’s hard to envision, but having a human being bring you food could someday be as archaic as paying for long-distance phone calls here in the U.S. Click HERE to see this short video of what’s happening in delivery robots. (Source: Spoon, Community Impact, Ars Technica)