Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Robot in the Wild

This was my first time seeing a robot delivery vehicle in the wild. It was delivering hamburgers from some place about 6 blocks away. There was a young guy walking with it, but he said the robot is fully autonomous; he’s just there for security and light troubleshooting as it learns.  You can see it sussing out what to do when it meets people, when the sidewalk gets wonky, or when it has to cross the street or negotiate a curb cut.  This particular robot is from Starship Technologies and has been rolling around DC since March or so.

The autonomous coolers-on-wheels essentially act like any Postmates delivery service. An app user orders, say, items from a nearby convenience store. The vendor is notified, and a robot is dispatched from one of several hubs. Goods are placed in a temperature-controlled bag in the bot’s sealed compartment, which can only be unlocked with a code that’s sent to the customer. The robot then makes its way to the destination, and voila, that $10 order of snacks and soda is that much more awesome....

The six-wheeled vehicles are equipped with nine cameras, elaborate GPS systems, and ultrasonic sensors on all sides that can track distance and obstacles (much like on a car). They can sense to slow down in crowds, or speed up to 4 miles per hour in the open. Still, Cook says the bots are known to occasionally get held up by tree roots, and are still mastering DC’s many crosswalks that have no timed lights. They’re also only able to hold one delivery at a time, and can’t fit certain items, like an extra-large pizza.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Loved the robot. Will be interesting to see how this technology develops. (Don't expect it soon in small town New Zealand). Disgusted to see it followed on by four minutes of Trump rationalizing his pardon of Sheriff Joe. Yuck. I watched the whole thing because I expected some punchline or twist. Nope. pure Trump baloney.