Watch where you’re stepping, because friendly autonomous delivery robots are now roaming the sidewalks with you. They are called KiwiBots, produced by Kiwi Campus and today more than 150 of these semi-autonomous machines have delivered some 35,000 orders to university campuses and surrounding communities. First developed in Medellin, Columbia at the kitchen table using an iPhone for brainpower, the product has come a long way in technological advances. These cooler sized bots are equipped with 6 cameras, a custom GPS and 5 hour interchangeable batteries along with AI and facial recognition sensors to aid in obstacle avoidance.
They’re up against stiff competition with some of the most valuable private companies like Postmates, Doordash, and (recently public) Uber all fighting for their piece of the pie. These current services are charging between $5-15 for delivery, and that’s where Kiwi Campus is setting themselves apart. The model Kiwi developed aims to completely eliminate delivery fees. Potentially as soon as the upcoming September 2019-2020 school year they are considering implementing free delivery.
Initially launching at UC Berkeley and Stanford University, CEO Felipe Chavez (founder of acquired online grocery store lulo.com) has since expanded the service to an additional 12 campuses. 40 robots have been delivered to major U.S college and universities including Cornell, Harvard, NYU, Rutgers and Texas A&M. Along with the growing markets, deliveries can also now be made using the iPhone app (android coming soon) to deliver anything from groceries to school supplies… if it can fit inside the chest of these smiling droids, it will come to you!
The level of autonomy is a big step, but they’re not entirely controlled by computers. In fact, in the startups home country of Columbia there are employees behind the wheel of each KiwiBot using a point and click system reminiscent of an old school RPG game. This is the major reason why the company can consider such low delivery costs. A single employee can operate up to 3 robots at a time and handle more than a dozen deliveries an hour. Operating remotely from their home town allows them to pay wages less than $2/hr (which is above Colombias minimum wage).
A 2018 partnership with online learning facility Udacity is training 200 engineers in Columbia with Udacities self driving car nano degree. To further develop and run the companies operations, a factory in Medellin is also being prepared.
How it works
The $2500 KiwiBots are not the only creation that the company has developed. With leadership from CTO & founder Jason Oviedo and Head of Design Alejandro Otalora, the startup released the “worlds first smart-assisted semi-autonomous electric cargo tricycle.” Along with this is a RestaurantBot that does not leave the premises of participating stores and restaurants. Using these technologies, the company built a streamlined service where the sidewalk roaming robot only makes the final 200m journey of product delivery. The startups CEO claims that this 5X more efficient than traditional couriers and offers a more desirable experience making KiwiBot the future of personal delivery.
When a customer places an order they can expect delivery within the hour. During that hour, a driver of the elecric cargo tricycle makes the trip to restaurants with pending orders. The restaurant bot is expected to meet the driver at the door where the tricycle is loaded with up to 20 meals at a time. The electric trike can then quickly retreat back into the area of service around campus where KiwiBots can be deployed with packages to reach the end user. The smiling KiwiBots top speed is around about 2km/hr.
There have been some mishaps, including a fire where the Berkeley Department was called to aid a robot in flames. Locals seem to have taken fondly to the KiwiBot and often protect them from abuse, including this case where a passerby reacted and extinguished the fire before officials arrived. That event prompted some upgrades which to date has worked perfectly.
Some of the worlds largest companies like Amazon and Google are stepping up their delivery efforts today. We’ve seen patents for drone releasing blimps flying in our skies to make orders, but we are yet to see appropriate delivery robots that work in the real world. Kiwi Campus is leading the way with their robotic autonomous delivery startup that is effectively merging leading technologies with efficient and acceptable methods. What’s next? Join the informed Millennial Online Community for continuing updates and information on new technologies creating a better, more sustainable world for the next generation.