DoorDash, Postmates Deploying Robot Delivery Guys On Both Coasts

If you live in Redwood City, CA, or Washington, D.C., a robot might be dropping off dinner someday soon: DoorDash and Postmates are both starting to deploy robotic delivery vehicles in those cities, respectively.

Autonomous ground-delivery robots made by Starship Technologies will be put to work starting today for both food delivery apps, with Postmates sending out robots in February in D.C., and DoorDash joining the fun in Silicon Valley.

The six-wheeled robots stand at just under two feet, and weigh 40 pounds empty. They travel at four miles per hour, and at least in these beginning trials, will be accompanied by human handlers.

Once a robot arrives at its destination, customers will receive a text with a custom link they have to tap to unlock a code to open the robot’s hatch. Otherwise, anyone on the street could steal a free meal from the little guys. The robots also feature safety measures like cameras, GPS, alarms, and a two-way radio

DoorDash’s co-funder and chief product officer Stanley Tang wrote in a blog post today that the pilot partnership with Starship Technologies will stat by testing to see if the robots can be speedy and provide good service, “while also exploring how customers interact with the robots and learning how the robot works with the restaurant’s operations.”

Robots won’t be replacing human delivery personnel, he adds, since the robots “have a smaller carrying capacity and drive on sidewalks, they are better suited for carrying a small meal down the street, rather than a few pizzas.”

Instead, robots will be used to deliver smaller, short-distance orders that human delivery people don’t like as much, freeing up people to fulfill bigger deliveries that can result in more tips.

“Ultimately, we think we can use robots to improve the Dasher experience and make the deliveries they do even easier and more efficient,” he writes.

Postmates’ senior vice president of business, Holger Luedorf, tells The Verge that robots won’t be taking over for humans completely any time soon, but it’s good to figure out how they fit into the overall delivery plan.

“If robots are coming, and are going to be an option for part of our deliveries, then we think we should test these [now] and gain experience, and get data to kind of really say what this means for our business,” he told the Verge. He also says the company welcomes any chance to get feedback from customers and commercial partners about robotic deliveries.

“This is really just a kind of first step in educating ourselves,” he said.

These robots may look familiar to you: Starship has tested them with other partners elsewhere around the world, including in Germany as package couriers.