Robots Could Deliver Your Next Takeout Order

The bots will be cruising in California.

doordash delivers with robots
Photo: © Starship Technologies

Knock-knock. Who's there? A robot. A robot who? A robot who's got your takeout order.

No, this isn't a bad joke. (Well, it is a bad joke, but it's more than that.) Beginning tomorrow, robots will roll up—quite literally—to doors across Redwood City, Calif., and deliver online orders from area eateries, Buzzfeed reports.

The bots come from DoorDash, a restaurant delivery service that currently uses human beings to run food orders around several cities. Now, robots the size of golden retrievers will make the company's shortest delivery runs, traversing one to two miles to deliver food.

DoorDash is rolling out its six robots in Redwood City after weeks and 20,000 miles worth of testing. The bots use GPS navigation to go from restaurant to home, with science fiction-like computer vision that helps them avoid obstacles on the sidewalks and roads. They can even hop curbs—but they don't jay-roll.

Each six-wheeled bot can carry 22 pounds of food. A restaurant employee will deposit food into the robot's temperature-controlled chamber, which stays locked until it arrives at your door. (Keeping the robot's chamber locked ensures your order won't get stolen or be tampered with en route, DoorDash says.) Plus, DoorDash tracks its bots, so it always knows where they are—or if they go rogue.

With success in Redwood City, DoorDash plans to expand its robotic delivery service into other markets. In fact, it's already testing the bots in Washington, D.C., Buzzfeed reports.

Because the bots aren't suited to travel long distances, DoorDash won't be replacing its human dashers just yet. Rather, the robots will take over the shortest delivery distances, "freeing up dashers to fulfill the bigger and more complex deliveries that often result in more money for them," DoorDash cofounder and chief product officer Stanley Tang explained to BuzzFeed.

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