With the revelation that it will soon use sidewalk robots built in Miami, Florida, Uber is expanding its usage of autonomous delivery vehicles.
The six-wheeled delivery robots will be manufactured by Cartken, an AI startup with offices in Oakland that was started by a group of former Google engineers and is best known for putting its vehicles on college campuses.
With plans to extend into more markets and urban regions of Miami-Dade County in 2023, the robots will initially transport goods from a variety of companies in the Dadeland neighborhood. The robotics company Cartken claims that Uber’s partnership with Cartken is its “first formal relationship with a worldwide on-demand delivery app beyond college campuses.”
Robots that deliver packages on the sidewalk are becoming a common sight on many college campuses and in certain towns and cities. There have been some significant instances of robots catching fire, being hit by cars, or becoming stuck in the snow.
The electric Cartken robots have a trunk that can hold nearly two dozen pounds of cargo and a variety of embedded cameras that may be used to spot obstructions and assist in guiding the robot to its intended location. Magna is the manufacturer of Cartken’s robots.
The robots can only move at a speed somewhat slower than walking, which is obviously slower than delivery by a human on a bike or in a car while having a delivery radius of several miles. They can also climb curbs but not stairs, which may reduce client interest if they reside in multistory buildings.
Uber is becoming more at ease utilizing autonomous vehicles for delivery and ride-hailing services. In addition to partnering with Motional and Serve Robotics on a robot delivery pilot across Los Angeles, the company has a 10-year agreement with Nuro to use its delivery trucks in California and Texas. In Las Vegas, Uber is also promoting Motional’s robotaxis on its app for users who request rides.
Infamously, Uber had developed its own fleet of autonomous vehicles with the intention to eventually replace all of its human drivers, but the program was shut down after a woman was killed by one of the company’s vehicles in 2017.