San Francisco partially banned delivery robots because they obstructed pedestrians, so Postmates built one with eyes, turn signals and a mandate to yield. Serve is Postmates’ new cooler-meet-autonomous-stroller that it hopes can cut costs and speed up deliveries. The semi-autonomous rover uses cameras and Lidar to navigate sidewalks, but always has a human pilot remotely monitoring a fleet of Serves who can take control if there’s a problem. There’s even a “Help” button, touchscreen and video chat display customers or passers-by can use to summon assistance.
Serve will be rolling out in various cities over the next year, starting in Los Angeles. It does deliveries to customers that unlock its cargo hatch with their phone or a passcode, but it also can grab food from restaurants in congested areas and bring them to a Postmates dispatch hub from which delivery people can take packages the last mile. Serve can carry 50 pounds of goods for 25 miles on a single charge — enough to make around a dozen deliveries per day.
“We took time to figure out what is the language for the rover and pedestrians to interact with each other. If a robot is at a sidewalk and wants to be able to cross the street, it needs to show its intent to cross,” Kashani tells me. Thanks to a light ring around the top with turn signals and eyes that can indicate where it’s trying to go.
Why it’s hot: Watch out Uber Eats and Seamless! If executed properly, this could streamline delivery efficiencies and cut down on labor costs for Postmates.