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Contactless food delivery by robots

From San Francisco to China, there has been a rise of robots to deliver restaurant and grocery orders

The self-driving food delivery robot by Yandex (Image courtesy; Yandex, YouTube)
The self-driving food delivery robot by Yandex (Image courtesy; Yandex, YouTube)

Pivoting to food delivery ensured that restaurants and grocery businesses around the world survived 2020. Dunzo, WeFast and Swiggy Genie are perhaps some of the most used apps in India this year. Inevitably, technological advances with artificial intelligence, robotics and automation for quicker, efficient and, most importantly, contactless delivery are being developed.

Last week, a delivery company in Moscow named Yandex Eats announced the launch of a robot that delivers restaurant meals and grocery orders. It is a major food and grocery delivery service in Russia with more than 30,000 merchants across 166 cities. A post on the company’s Medium page reads customers can opt for robot delivery on the Yandex.Eats app. The user can track its location and status with the app. To receive the order, users will need to unlock the rover using their smartphone and lift the top.

“In the last few years we’ve been seeing a constant growth in demand for delivery services and the events of 2020 have only advanced this trend. This is why now we have robots coming to people’s rescue. They will take on part of the delivery load which will allow us to retain delivery speed as the demand for our services grows. Rovers can deliver restaurant meals, groceries, orders from online stores and will slowly but steadily become a normal part of city life,” said Dmitry Polishchuk, CEO, Yandex Self-Driving Group in the Medium post titled Yandex.Rover Now Makes Restaurant Deliveries Within Yandex.Eats.

Picking up food parcels delivered by the Yandex robot. (Image courtesy: Yandex, YouTube)
Picking up food parcels delivered by the Yandex robot. (Image courtesy: Yandex, YouTube)

Companies like Amazon, Google, FedEx, Starship Technologies have introduced delivery robots too as the need for contactless delivery rises. Amazon was slightly ahead of the game. It released a robot named Scout in Seattle in January 2019. San-Francisco based robotics company Starship Technologies introduced an electric-powered autonomous robot in college campuses.

Meanwhile, tech companies in Asia are not behind. Japanese robot tech firm ZMP Inc is experimenting with robot deliveries. Japan’s government is invested in developing such technologies as they have an acute shortage of labour with a rapidly ageing population and low birth rate. In China, delivery giant Meituan Dianping furthered the cause of contactless delivery by launching an autonomous robot in Beijing earlier this year. Last year, a Chinese company White Rhino auto company joined hands with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation and introduced delivery robots to carry food and medicine within the campus of Guanggu Field Hospital in Wuhan. They were believed to not only reduce human contact, but also relieve the workload of busy hospital staff.

Indian roads with mismanaged traffic might prove to be a challenge for autonomous robots, but tech companies here will perhaps begin by experimenting with them in areas with controlled crowds, such as university campuses, hospitals and corporate hubs.

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