Food delivery robots to arrive in Sacramento: What you need to know

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —

The city of Sacramento announced Tuesday it plans to bring food delivery robots to town as part of a pilot program with company Kiwi Campus, Inc.

The service works much like other food delivery companies, such as DoorDash, Grubhub and Postmates. But, instead of a person delivering the food, a robot drops it off instead.

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Here are five things to know about the incoming robots:

1) How do the robots work?

The four-wheeled robots, called “Kiwibots,” travel at an average of two miles an hour, according to Sacramento’s Chief Innovation Officer Louis Stewart. They are outfitted with cameras, GPS and pre-programmed routes.

“They recognize the stop hand. They recognize the walk signal. So, they’ll cross only at crosswalks,” Stewart said. “They’re not going to J-walk for instance. They literally follow every rule that we give them to follow.”

2) Where will the robots operate?

The pilot program will initially launch in Midtown Sacramento, Stewart said. The city has not set exact boundaries yet because the mapping process will be included with the pilot program.

Stewart said the robots will mainly drive on sidewalks wide enough to accommodate them.

3) How will the robots navigate difficult terrain, like stairs?

People will help the robots in tough spots. According to Stewart, the program will generate jobs needed for service, maintenance and distribution.

“The robots go off and do their thing and then come back and meet the human,” he said. “They get put back and reloaded and distributed around the city as needed.”

4) How secure are the robots?

Considering the robots travel at an average of two miles an hour, people in Sacramento questioned how secure they are, asking for instance: What if someone tries to steal them? Stewart said that is a topic they will analyze during the pilot program.

“Only at two miles an hour, so somebody could keep messing with it,” he said. “But, it would go to a relay point where it meets the human that’s associated with that robot so we can figure out what’s happening.”

Stewart also said the food remains locked inside until customers unlock the robot with a barcode on their app.

5) When are the robots coming to Sacramento?

The city plans to roll out 30 robots in September or October. The test run is expected to last 6 to 12 months.

City staff hope the robots will help the environment, reduce traffic congestion, reduce noise and generate jobs.

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