Postmates Gets Go-Ahead to Test Delivery Robot in San Francisco

Postmates was granted permission to test a delivery robot in San Francisco.
Donna Fuscaldo
Serve, Postmates delivery robot Postmates Serve/Postmates

Add robots to the traffic problems in San Francisco, now that Postmates received the go-ahead to test its delivery robot on the streets of San Francisco. 

According to media reports, the San Francisco-based on-demand delivery startup that transports goods and food from retailers to consumers via bike and vehicle was granted a permit by the city of San Francisco to test its robot, which is a four-wheeled, self-driving cart. 


Postmate's robot test limited in the city  

The permit issued by the Department of Public Works in San Francisco is limited in scope, with the delivery cart only allowed to operate in an industrial area of the city. Postmates can only test three robots at a time with the robot not allowed to go faster than 3 mph. The robots can only be tested between 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.  During all tests, Postmates is required to have a human who can operate the robot within thirty feet, according to news reports. 

Dubbed Serve, Postmates robot can cart as much as 50 pounds of goods and travel as much as 30 miles before needing a charge. When announcing Serve in December, the on-demand delivery company said Serve is designed to work alongside the existing Postymates fleet to move small objects short distances in a more efficient manner. The robot runs on electricity and moves at a walking speed. 

Robots cut costs, deliver goods more efficiently 

Postmates is among the startups that are trying to capitalize on the growing demand for same-day delivery. In order to cut expenses many of the startups are looking at deploying robots to do their bidding. According to the media reports Maple, a robot delivery startup also of San Francisco, applied for a permit to test its robot in the city.  “Obviously, there are many cities where it would be much less time- and resource-intensive to get permission to operate, but we love San Francisco and see tremendous potential for robot delivery here,” Marble spokesman Craig Frucht told the San Francisco Chronicle

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Critics of delivery robots argue these unnamed devices cause accidents and negatively impact pedestrian access to city streets. There has been little in the way of accidents associated with delivery robots to date. The robots use a combination of sensors, cameras, GPS and machine learning to get around crowds and get the product to its destination.  Companies and cities across the country have embraced the new technology. 

Earlier this summer Nuro, the self-driving pizza delivery company teamed up with Domino's to deliver pizza via a robot. The test is going down in the Houston area. 

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