In a post-corona world, one Texas town could see robot delivery vehicles on city streets, ushering fast-food, supplies, and groceries back and forth from supermarkets and shops to residential housing complexes and or homes.
The drive for a contactless society has been put into hyperdrive because of the virus pandemic. Even before the outbreak, there was a big push to integrate automation and artificial intelligence into the economy.
According to Community Impact Newspaper, which serves Austin, Texas, Starship Technologies, a company developing small self-driving robotic delivery vehicles, told Frisco City Council's work session on Tuesday (May 5) that it will soon go into contract with several local shops to offer contactless delivery via the robots.
"We've identified the intersection around Main and Teel [streets] as probably where we're going to start," Starship Director of Sales Robert Buehler said.
"Vendors that have expressed interest include Fuzzy's Tacos, Kpop Burger, Hareli Fresh Market, Kroger, Chicken Express [and] Hurts Donut—those sorts of restaurants and grocers in that area," Buehler said.
Buehler said the service is already offered at The University of Texas at Dallas, noting that, "With the pandemic, a lot of campuses have emptied out of students. So we have accelerated our long-term plans, which is to offer neighborhood deliveries."
He said the robots are a contactless delivery system that could help limit the spread of the virus by limiting interaction with a person and delivery driver.
"Every person that can stay at home and order delivery via this robot is staying out of the store, staying out of the restaurant, and preventing unnecessary interactions with those frontline workers," Buehler said.
He said the robots operate on sidewalks but can operate on city streets if need be.
"It is 99% autonomous, but there are always human-robot operators in the loop that can address any unexpected instances as it's making its trip," Buehler said.
Each robot weighs 60 pounds unloaded and can have a payload of up to 25 pounds. It uses 3-D mapping technology and sensors to navigate sidewalks and streets and travels up to four mph with a radius distance of about 3 miles
City officials are still working on the logistics of having miniature-sized golf carts operating on its streets. Yet, in a post-corona world, it appears the technology is being adopted at lightning speeds because it will help flatten the curve.