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Evolution of a Robot Autonomous Delivery Service Online

A “cute little robot” has graduated from college dorm burrito deliveries to providing security to women walking across campus in the dark.  Kiwibot is now “a robot that people can accept,” says David Rodriguez, the company’s Director of Strategy and Business Operations.  Mr. Rodriguez made the comments in a guest appearance online on WeekleyWed, a feature of the Business School of AI.

The surprising revelations come in an hour-long discussion that covered everything from how Kiwibot went from an incubator to a company expected to attract “billions of dollars” in funding.  Part of the reason for the company’s success, Rodriguez says, is that “small vehicles delivering burritos make a lot more sense than three-ton cars getting in the right-of-way.”  In other words, Kiwibot is not “threatening.”  

Sustainable Technology

“Technology is not sustainable unless it’s solving a real world problem,” Rodriguez says.  Here he addresses how Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are used to enable these autonomous vehicles to do what they do.  “It’s not an ‘over-techy’ product,” paving the way for “robot solutions that go beyond delivery.”  The robots are now getting requests to accompany women who want them for security reasons.

As exciting as it may sound, developing a self-driving robot that people “fall in love with,” Rodriguez says everyone in the company needs to be focused on solving a problem.  In this case, the focus is on reducing the cost of making deliveries.  In the discussion, Rodriguez talks about taking delivery costs from $10 down to three.  Now the business world is starting to take note, attracting interest from companies like Shopify, Ordermark, Chick-fil-A and others.  Kiwibot deployment stretches from Stanford to Berkley, Los Angeles to Miami, Detroit to Pittsburg and beyond.

The Actual Robot:

“We thought we were done.”  Rodriguez talks about surviving a disaster on the U.C. Berkeley campus.  One of the Kiwibots exploded, overheating because of a problem involving the use of four different lightbulbs in the small, autonomous vehicles.  To the shock of the company’s founders, distressed students held a candle light vigil on campus for the robot. People are falling in love with the little guy.  After four years of development and then deployment, Kiwibots now have enough momentum that the company believes they are on the way to overcoming some major hurdles.

While competition to be at the forefront of the multi-billion-dollar delivery business is fierce, Kiwibot’s founders maintain focus on solutions.  This has ranged from overcoming things like surviving cold weather to building a navigation system that avoids dangerous streets.  “If we find a neighborhood where people have a really bad attitude, we don’t go there.”  Kiwibots may face hurdles and even some roadblocks, but they look to be heading down the road of widespread acceptance.


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