The first-ever permit for sidewalk delivery robots operations in the city of San Francisco has been granted to the on-demand delivery business, according to the Postmates. The permits are active for 180 days and it also authorize the testing of up to three autonomous delivery devices, according to San Francisco Public Works.
Since 2017, alongside San Francisco supervisor Norman Yee and labor and advocacy groups Postmates has been working to develop a framework for sidewalk robotics. San Francisco is now one of the first cities, which now formally allowed companies to test autonomous delivery robots under a new pilot program, after the issuance of the permit.
Different companies were previously testing autonomous robots in various San Francisco streets. But after then, the city voted to ban street robots from testing without official government permits, and it was quite similar to the electric-scooter saga of 2018.
In December, semi-autonomous sidewalk rover, Serve, was unveiled by Postmates. Serve can carry 50 pounds for up to 25 miles after one charge by using cameras and lidar to navigate sidewalks. A human pilot by Postmates is remotely monitoring the Serve fleets. A “Help” button, touchscreen and video chat display for customers or passers-by to use is alos present in each rover.
However, no pilots have been officially announced yet, originally the company has planned to start these bots service in 2019. In recent months, a number of changes has been done to Serve by them, according to the company. Changes like new lidar tech that’s smaller, more lightweight and durable, with zero-emission capabilities has been implemented.
A new scripting language for animating Serve’s “eye”, has been developed by the Serve team, under an Apple veteran that joined Postmates recently, Ken Kocienda.
Another autonomous delivery company, Marble, was not granted a permit, according to the documents provided by Postmates. The reason was that the startup lacked an adequate Labor Dispute statement in its permit application, according to the labor union Teamsters. Marble is a last-mile logistics business based in San Francisco. The company closed at a $10 million round with support from Tencent, CrunchFund and others, last year.
Later this year, Postmates is expected to go public in a highly expected initial public offering. In February, after lining up a $100 million pre-IPO financing that valued the business at $1.85 billion the business filed confidentially for its offering.
According to Recode, an M&A exit has been exploring by the Postmate. It also wrote that Posmates has discussed a merger with another top food delivery provider, DoorDash. Kristin Reinke, Google’s vice president of finance, joined the board of directors of Postmates, as announced by the company in June. This shows that it was sticking to IPO plans.
Well, it is not the first company to test sidewalk delivery robots. In the UK, deliveries has already been done by Starship Technologies’ robotic devices. The company has also partnered with Postmates to test deliveries in the US in 2017. Postmates is trying to make its fleet more efficient and win over customers using these autonomous deliveries, with intense competition in delivery services from Amazon, DoorDash, Grubhub, Starship, and others.