Meet 'Kiwibot,' testing robotic deliveries from Corktown restaurants in Detroit

October 12, 2021, 6:50 AM

This self-guided cart will roll on the sidewalks of Corktown, one of four U.S. pilot sites. (Photos: Kiwibot)

Detroit is one of four test sites for a restaurant delivery service using semi-autonomous robots.

Kiwibot, a tech startup in Berkeley, Calif., is deploying an engineer and five sidewalk delivery carts that look like beer coolers on wheels in Corktown to give the devices a real-world tryout and to support post-Covid recovery by neighborhood businesses.

"This pilot with Kiwibot builds on our commitment to provide our small businesses with innovative resources to grow and thrive," says a statement from Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, "while providing residents with affordable, equitable access to critical goods like food."

Another goal is to "help increase opportunities for local businesses to generate additional sales," the state's release adds. The idea is to offer a lower-cost delivery service than third-party services such as Ubereats, Grubhub and Doordash.

Michigan's Office of Future Mobility is partnering on the pilot with the city, Corktown Business Association, Michigan Central and Ford Motor Company's new mobility innovation district in Corktown. A similar test began last year in San Diego and also will take place in Miami and Pittsburgh.

A Knight Foundation grant and Ford support the project. During its first phase, the neighborhood business association will arrange partnerships with restaurants.

Sam Krassenstein, the city's deputy director of mobility innovation, is quoted as saying: "We're excited to bring another safe, accessible,and sustainable mobility service to local residents to aid the fight against the pandemic and support small business recovery. ...  We'll work hand-in-hand with community members to ensure equitable deployment and learn how personal delivery devices can support local businesses and residents, regardless of income."

The four-year-old Kiwibot maker says in a separate release that it wants "to ensure that robots are deployed in areas where they can operate safely among pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles."

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