In the near future, robotic personal delivery devices may bring us our food orders
Last month Chicago approved a pilot program for personal delivery devices to operate in the city of Chicago. Under this pilot program, PDD companies will partner with local food establishments as a courier service to deliver food orders to customers using small robots travelling on sidewalks and in crosswalks.
The service is app-based and partners with food establishments, including grocery stores, to make deliveries within a small radius of the restaurant or store. The robots are packed with sensors that have cameras with machine vision radar. They also have ultrasonic sensors that detect solid objects like curbs and walls. The built-in GPS and CV-based navigation uses proprietary maps that allow for one inch navigation precision. They are now crossing 80,000 roads every day. They travel in the dark, in the rain and even heavy snow. The robots provide a service for what is known as the “last mile” of delivery and typically travel one to three miles for a delivery.
I saw the “City of Chicago” news article and reached out to a media representative for Starship Technologies. She informed me that her company has been using PDDs for on-demand autonomous delivery to the University of Illinois Chicago this past year.
Starship operates in six countries with a global fleet of 2,000 robots which have completed more than 3.5 million commercial autonomous deliveries. Starship in the U.S. operates primarily on college campuses but is starting to expand to wider areas. The robot delivery market is expected to grow in the U.S. from 212 million in 2021 to 957 million by 2026.
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How does it work? Users open the Starship app, choose from a range of their favorite food or drink items and then drop a pin where they want the delivery to be sent. Just like the Uber app, you can watch as the robot makes its journey to you via an interactive map. When the robot arrives, you receive an alert and then you meet and unlock the robot through the app. Each robot can carry the equivalent of about three shopping bags of goods. The robot can deliver both hot and cold foods.
A recent college survey found:
-More than 40% of the college students surveyed say they treat the robot like a person and say thank you, excuse me, etc.
-66% said because of the robot delivery, they don’t skip meals because they do not have to wait in long lines. Good news for their parents.
-90% prefer robots over drones and self-driving cars.
Some quick facts about the robot:
-Weighs about 75 pounds empty and can travel up to four miles per hour.
-Can travel anywhere a person can walk, but primarily uses sidewalks.
-Has 12 cameras that can record and audio so it can engage with people around it. Built in sirens sound if the robot is picked up or tampered with.
-Environmentally friendly, saving more than 400 tons of carbon dioxide by using battery power rather than gasoline.
As a youth I was enthralled with science fiction writer Isaac Asimov and his series of robot books. It is truly amazing how much robot technology has advanced. My thanks to Starship, and I look forward to one day greeting a Starship PDD at my front door delivering a pizza or better yet, a New York-style pastrami sandwich on rye. I encourage you to watch (and turn up your speakers) “A Day in the Life of a Starship Robot” at https://youtu.be/Z417CncwQsg.
Like most people, I fell in love with the robot droids R2-D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars. In the “Empire Strikes Back,” C-3PO loses his cool on Chewbacca when Chewbacca carries his broken body parts away from the Ugnaughts.
"Wait! Wait! Oh my! What have you done? I'm backwards! You flea-bitten furball! Only an overgrown mop-head like you would be stupid enough ...," C-3PO says.
Jay Kitterman is a culinary and special events consultant and adjunct instructor at Lincoln Land Community College.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management and Baking/Pastry, and non-credit cooking and food classes through LLCC Community Education. For more information, visit www.llcc.edu.
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