Postmates Tests Self-Driving Delivery Robots

Rival company Marble looks to follow
Photograph courtesy of Postmates

SAN FRANCISCO — Postmates has officially received a permit from the city of San Francisco to test Serve, its autonomous delivery robot, according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The robots will operate in and within a few blocks of Potrero Hill and the Inner Mission, an industrial area of the city, the newspaper said. The permit allows Postmates to test three robots at once, and the little robots will travel at 3 miles per hour to make their deliveries during the test.

Deliveries may take place only between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays. Also, while the Serve robots are built to drive autonomously, a human supervising the robot must be within 30 feet while they’re operating.

San Francisco-based Postmates has been talking about Serve since December 2018, according to TechCrunch, but this is the first time it is being used in public. Like many autonomous vehicles in testing, Serve uses cameras and lidar technology to trundle across sidewalks. The robot can carry up to 50 pounds for 25 miles on one charge. Each Serve robot includes a "Help" button, touchscreen and video chat display. Also, Serve’s “eyes” can animate to help it communicate with people.

Postmates isn’t the only company looking to test autonomous delivery in San Francisco. Marble, another delivery company also based there, is waiting on a similar permit from the city’s Public Works department.

While these tests are extremely unlikely to affect convenience stores in the short term, delivery robots could become more common if they are successful.

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