Here's What Happens When You Try to Steal From a Delivery Robot

Shelby Rogers

When you're waiting on a carry-out order, the delivery guy can be one of your favorite people. Delivery robots have risen in popularity to help assist food delivery companies with growing order volumes. (It's also safer than in-person delivery.) But what happens when, rather than robbing a human delivery boy, someone tries to rob a delivery robot?

Buzzfeed News recently attempted to rob a robot with DoorDash. The delivery company has been trying out food delivery robots in Northern California. One delivery robot can carry over 22 pounds of food from a restaurant to wherever you need it delivered (with certain limitations). DoorDash will then send users a text message with an unlocking feature. Simply press the unlock feature and the robot will open up.

However, with a robot carrying something as valuable as over 20 pounds of delicious food, it's bound to be at risk of a robbery. The robot itself isn't particularly menacing. How does it protect itself and its contents? The DoorDash bots come with a lot of cameras to give an almost 360-degree view of the surroundings. The delivery robot also has a nifty escape mechanism. It can climb a curb if it needs to. According to Henry Harris-Burland of Starship Technologies (the creator of the DoorDash robots), the robot has met over 4 million people on the streets yet not one person has attempted to crack it open. Harris-Burland noted that the systems are tracked to the nearest inch.

DoorDash isn't the only delivery robot roaming the Northern California area. Yelp's Eat24 uses robots from Marble in San Francisco. Those systems boast similar locking and camera features to Starship's.

Not everyone is a fan of getting their meals delivered by automation. Delivery people have voiced concerns that these robots will replace them entirely. This seems like a seemingly obvious concern, especially as certain jobs pose a threat of being made obsolete by automation. However, DoorDash officials say that's not the intention as the robots will be used to expand the fleet rather than replace employees.

The other complaint, however, seems a bit more unique. Some people are worried that the robots will clutter sidewalks, transforming them from spaces where people can leisurely stroll to bike lanes where movement must be continuous.

"If there really were hundreds of little robots," said Renia Ehrenfeucht, a sidewalks specialist, "they would stop functioning as sidewalks and start functioning more as bike lanes. They would stop being spaces that are available for playing games or sitting down."

However, as anyone from a major metro area will tell you, certain sidewalks already function as high-speed, no-stroll environments. Walking too slowly down a busy sidewalk in New York City, for example, is a sin for native New Yorkers.

The pros and cons of these automated delivery systems will be debated for years to come, but as long as the public gets its food hot, fresh and on time, we think these robots have a good chance of sticking around.