Automation: Delivery Robots Look Likely for Austin Implementation
July 28, 2016, 12:25 PM
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Delivery robots are a technology that is coming on strong: they are small, relatively unthreatening to safety and almost friendly as machines go. Their usage niche is rather limited because of their size and use of sidewalks rather than roads, plus they probably won’t work in rough neighborhoods. On the other hand, pizza and other food deliveries are an easy fit, along with other local applications like groceries.

Apparently the delivery robots are coming to Austin, which has become a minor tech hub in recent years because of the presence of the big university. Also, it is one of a handful of cities that currently have Google self-driving cars being tested.

Unfortunately for low-skilled workers, delivery robots are another hit at fast-food jobs. That industry is incorporating robotics extra rapidly because of demands for $15 per hour pay, which has brought ordering kiosks for starters. But that’s only the beginning because the machines are getting cheaper and more capable.

The introduction of delivery robots into the work universe is another of the many small cuts to jobs that go unnoticed by expert economists but nevertheless are adding up in the real world where finding employment is tough. Delivery jobs are mostly part-time gigs that provide some cash for students or others who don’t want full time, so the loss means less flexibility in getting by.

So America won’t need any more immigrant workers for jobs that no longer exist, right?

Friendly ‘delivery robots’ may be coming to Austin to live and work, Fox 5 NY, July 27, 2016

Austin may be getting a fleet of robots in the near future. FOX 7’s Casey Claiborne has more on what the robots will be doing.

The robots look like coolers on wheels and they don’t quite have names yet but the company is called Starship.

“Starship Technologies have created the world’s first commercially available autonomous delivery robot,” said Starship’s Henry Harris-Burland.

Harris-Burland flew in from London to show Austin what the robots can do.

“We came to Austin because it’s common sense, it’s obvious. Austin is a very forward-thinking, tech-embracing, innovative city,” Harris-Burland said.

The company is hoping to come back and test them out here.

They’re looking at three different markets: package delivery, grocery delivery and restaurant delivery. So these guys might show up at your door bearing pepperoni pizza.

“You’d order something as usual online. You’d be offered Starship delivery in the checkout area. And then you’d be notified through your mobile phone when your parcel was ready for delivery. The power is then in your hands,” Harris-Burland said.

When you’re ready to get your delivery, just send the robot your way and use an app to unlock the secured lid.

“We have nine cameras around the front and back. Six wheels. It’s got various different sensors around the front and back which enables the obstacle avoidance. It stops it from bumping into anything,” he said.

Harris-Burland says the goal is for the robots to be 99% autonomous. After mapping a neighborhood, like the Mueller neighborhood for example, a fleet of robots will have a hub there and start delivering.

And of course, you’ve heard it said “we just can’t have nice things” — well if anybody tries to vandalize or steal these robots, they’re equipped with tracking devices and more

“The robots have two-way audio so we can actually talk to people in the environment and listen to people…potentially even shout at people if we need to. The robots of course also have nine cameras on the front and back which can be recording. So if there was an incident to occur we could put that thief or vandal up on YouTube pretty quickly,” Harris-Burland said.

Starship says in the UK they’re launching with some commercial partners to do a joint testing program and that’s what they’re hoping to do here in Austin.

So the robots may return.