Expect Robots on Your Doorstep

Pandemic creates more opportunities for bot delivery.

March 04, 2021

Food and Grocery Delivery Robot

SAN FRANCISCO—In the midst of a pandemic, no one wants to touch anything they don’t have to. Which may help bring delivery robots more fully into the mainstream, reports Pymnts.com. Just ask the people at Postmates’ robotics operation, which has been renamed Serve Robotics.

“While self-driving cars remove the driver, robotic delivery eliminates the car itself and makes deliveries sustainable and accessible to all,” said Ali Kashani, co-founder and CEO of Serve Robotics.

Uber maintains a 25% stake in Serve Robotics, which produces the “sidewalk robot,” also known as Serve. Although curbside and in-store pickup are free, consumers are opting to have items handed off to them directly at home, according to recent consumer surveys. And that means there are more opportunities for Serve to deliver food and merchandise.

In addition, Amazon has expanded tests of Scout, its own delivery bot. It is reportedly going into areas where human delivery staff might be vulnerable to COVID-19. And the Federal Aviation Administration is letting commercial drone-maker American Robotics operate drones without on-site pilots. The drones may only fly at altitudes lower than 400 feet.

As the food/restaurant space is moving toward some level of automation, robots are demonstrating the ability to tackle a wide range of restaurant tasks, such as prepping food and serving as waiters.

Sixteen national consumer studies by Pymnts.com of more than 45,000 U.S. consumers since March 6, 2020, have found that 110 million consumers now shop for food and retail products over digital channels. First, they did it because there no other way, and now, it has become the preferred shopping method. And 83% of those consumers say they will stick with all or some of those digital habits in the future. Because the public prefers the “bring it to me” option when it comes to retail, expect to see more of the land-roving robots wheeling up to the front door.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.