Kiwibot, a robotic delivery service that has completed over 150,000 food deliveries with semi-autonomous robots, has expanded its operations to San Jose, Miami-Dade County, Pittsburgh, and Detroit.
This implementation of sidewalk delivery devices is possible due to a partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which funds initiatives that ensure that “residents’ voices drive the future of people-centered, smart cities”, says the company.
Each of the four cities will be given up to 10 robots with one human supervisor, making deliveries across these urban zones more efficient and cost-effective through Kiwibot’s last-mile delivery network.
The pilot projects will allow the cities to learn how to best introduce emerging mobility technologies that can serve the public good in an equitable manner while offering a sustainable business model for private sector companies like Kiwibot.
The pilot use cases chosen range from small local business deliveries, to community kitchens working with vulnerable populations, to increasing accessibility to library books and pharmacies.
Some services will replicate and scale the successful program implemented in San Jose during 2020. Others arose from Kiwibot’s Love Date Robots campaign, which fosters engagement and open interactions with the robots for the public, small businesses, and community organizations.
Kiwibot and the Knight Foundation have been working closely with these cities to bring residents to the center of the autonomous technology pilot projects in order to increase opportunities for locally-owned businesses, as well as grant more equitable access to food, medication, and other goods.
They also want to ensure that robots are released in areas where they can operate safely among pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles.
These pilots contribute to Kiwibot’s aspirations to be a self-sustainable public service by mapping areas and collecting sidewalk and infrastructure data using the Mobility Data Specifications framework and an automated data collection system.
Further, cities may spend up to $40 billion over 30 years repairing curbs, ramps, and sidewalks to align with Vision Zero efforts – to eliminate all traffic deaths and prevent fatalities – and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Kiwibot’s robots could eventually streamline these processes by sharing data about sidewalk conditions and vehicle and pedestrian traffic with city authorities, helping US cities become more accessible and safer, especially for the one in four Americans living with a disability.
Since June 2021, Kiwibot’s robots in the four cities have already traveled 1,455 miles, mapped 368 miles, and delivered 20,000 data points for city and county authorities. The partnership has allowed for 268 robot dates and resulting deliveries.
David Rodriguez, director of strategy and business operations at Kiwibot, says: “With more than 70 cities deploying pilots worldwide, autonomous vehicles and sidewalk delivery devices are set to be the most disruptive technologies of our time.
“Our robotic infrastructure is steering the post-pandemic world; supporting small businesses and community initiatives, bringing green solutions for congestion, and solving delivery needs while promoting safe mobility for all.”
Lilian Coral, Knight Foundation’s director for national strategy and technology innovation, says: “People should always be at the center of how these new mobility solutions are being deployed, which is why we’re thrilled to support collaborations with Kiwibot in San Jose, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Detroit that truly demonstrate the power of resident-informed strategies.
“The application of digital technology during the pandemic to facilitate the movement of people and goods has helped shape how cities respond to unprecedented challenges.”