Food delivery robots are being robbed in the US

Videos have surfaced of vandals kicking and forcefully opening the machines.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Representational image of a food delivery robot.jpg
Representational image of a food delivery robot.


Food delivery and grocery robots are an excellent way of getting meals delivered to customers efficiently and quickly. 

Many have ventured into the business such as Estonian ride-hailing firm Bolt that announced in June of 2023 that it will begin delivering food to people’s doors in Talinn using a fleet of autonomous robots. The development hailed from a partnership with robotics firm Starship Technologies which in 2019 expanded its fleet of autonomous food delivery robots to colleges across the US.

Vandals attack the robots

But the operations of such ventures come with some complications: mainly that as of late people in the US have been vandalizing and robbing these efficient machines, resulting in a potential loss of business for the companies that oversee the robots and forcing restaurants and grocery stores to replace their orders.

Los Angeles news outlet KTLA5 reported earlier this month that viral videos have surfaced of people kicking and forcefully opening the robots to steal their packages or just to simply destroy the machines. Luckily, for the establishments who supply the food, the robot company reimburses them.

“We have to remake the food, but luckily we still get reimbursed for that,” told KTLA5 Steve Avila, general manager of Blu Jam Café in Hollywood. “I can see how [delivery companies] can be hurting from it, especially because it seems like [the delivery robots] are pretty expensive.” 

Meanwhile, Serve Robots, a company supplying the autonomous delivery vehicles in West Hollywood, told the news outlet that they still have a 99.9 percent rate of successful deliveries, despite recent acts of vandalism.

Enforcing protective measures

Other companies, such as the previously mentioned Starship Technologies have enforced several protective measures to discourage and deal with vandalism and theft.

“If someone tries to block the robots, the robots will attempt to maneuver around them or politely ask them to move. If the situation escalates or the robot is tampered with, the robots have loud sirens, and any incidents are reported. Our robots are locked at all times and have 12 cameras,” said a statement from the company acquired by KTLA5.

Although no reason has been given for the acts of violence committed against these small but helpful machines, it can be assumed that some people are angry about them taking jobs away from humans. Machines are increasingly becoming more agile and efficient taking away more and more positions previously occupied by humans.

This has caused some to worry about their source of income and their viability. Others may simply see a good opportunity to get a free meal as a robot will not respond or attack back. Whatever the reason for these attacks it can be agreed that they are not warranted and should stop at all costs.

As next steps, it might be wise for authorities to place heavy fines and perhaps even jail time for any tampering of the machines. This will likely deter future vandals and ensure the security of food delivery and grocery robots everywhere.