April 13, 2020

Robots take contact-free delivery to the next level

Social distancing means delivery machines are the hottest bots on the block.

Photo: Elvert Barnes / Flickr

Let’s get ready to Roomba!

Tech companies have spent the past several years developing task masters to take on the drudgery of everyday chores (like vacuuming or grocery shopping). Thanks to social distancing, delivery machines are the hot bots on the block.

These hardworking helpers would make Rosie proud

Nuro just got the OK to test its electric R2 delivery pods on California’s public roads.

The R2 looks like a space-age Volkswagen and is designed to ferry orders directly to customers, who unlock its storage compartments by entering a code on a touchscreen. 

And Nuro’s not the only game in town.

  • The company Starship commands autonomous robots in a few cities. Starship’s original focus was college campus courier services, but with universities shuttered it has pivoted to playing delivery boy for grocery stores and restaurants.
  • In LA, Postmates deploys its cute little Serve robots to deliver meals.

Some companies are hitting the streets and takin’ it to the sky

Udelv’s driverless delivery vans feature individual cargo compartments, which make it possible for a single vehicle to make multiple deliveries. Udelv’s CEO recently announced it would offer its service for free in areas under strict quarantine orders.

Meanwhile, Wing — the drone-focused arm of Google’s parent company — has seen sky-high demand for its flying delivery service. Although the drones can’t handle heavy loads, the speedy devils can travel up to 65 mph. Since the pandemic hit, the company reports making 1k+ deliveries in 2 weeks. 

It seems robot tech has come a long way in just a few years. It wasn’t so long ago that a robotic sentry made headlines for drowning itself in a fountain.

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