Autonomous Meal Delivery Bots Head To London

A fleet of autonomous wheeled bots with food locked inside gear up for deliveries.

Robots really are taking over, and in London they could edge out humans to deliver takeaway orders.

International food ordering service Just Eat is currently testing self-driving robots there with an eye on deploying them for food deliveries soon.

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Just Eat, which currently operates in 15 countries, formed a partnership with the robot courier-maker Starship Enterprises for the deliveries, according to a recent announcement. Each small robot sports six wheels, on-board cameras and sensors to monitor surroundings, and a compartment for the food that requires an access code to unlock, the BBC reported.

Since the delivery bots were introduced in other locations at the end of last year, they have driven nearly 5,000 miles and "met" more than 400,000 people without any accidents, the company said. Although the bots are designed to move autonomously over short distances, their tech allows humans in a command center to monitor them and take over the controls if there's a problem.

Just Eat's robots look a little like the pizza-bearing bots that Domino's has been testing in New Zealand, only without the smiling faces. Meanwhile, the food-ordering app Foodpanda is working on delivery drones in Singapore. We're getting to the point where I expect a new reality show that pits a drone, a rolling bot, and a human against each other to see which one is best at delivering nom-noms.

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Much though I love friendly, helpful bots, there's something a little sad about the loss of human interaction here -- even if food delivery tends to be an unforgiving and low-paying job. It also makes me think of that recent case where pizza delivery people actually saved a longtime customer's life.

Plus, these rolling bots can't do five-story walkups. They have to stop at street-level doorsteps. Drones definitely have the advantage there. I can practically hear the reality show host saying, "Sorry, no tip for you!"

Next time on "Food Delivery Battle," let's see how well our contestants fare against angry dogs.

via BBC News

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