The Dallas city council agreed this week to a six-month pilot program that will put delivery robots on its city streets.
San Francisco-based Marble will provide up to 20 of its squat, cooler-like, four-wheeled robots to cruise Dallas city sidewalks at about 5 miles per hour to make door-to-door deliveries of things like restaurant meals, groceries or even prescriptions.
There are some robotic restrictions in the Dallas pilot. According to the Dallas Morning News, only select city sidewalks will be used during the program, and before the test can begin, Marble needs to map out the delivery areas before it can deploy the robots. Once active, robots must have a human on hand accompanying them (presumably to stop them from going rogue and rising up to take over).
The Lonestar state is starting to get lousy with robots. Dallas joins other Texa-tropolises such as Arlington and Austin in running robot delivery tests. Surprisingly, it’s in Marble’s own backyard that there has been the most resistance to this trend. Last year San Francisco imposed tight restrictions on commercial robot delivery.
Delivery robots have the capacity to drastically alter last mile delivery logistics, especially for densely populated, urban areas. As the technology improves, robots will be able to shed their human babysitters and autonomously scurry around anytime of day or night to drop off everything from baby medicine to a late night burrito, without adding to traffic congestion with more delivery vans and cars.
All these robots running about will create sidewalk congestion and entirely new issues as pedestrians get used to sharing space with fleets of mobile machines. But in addition to people getting deliveries, cities will also be getting something valuable out of these robot trials: data. Presumably the data collected by robots (how and when sidewalks are most crowded, which direction people are going, etc.) can be used in city planning to make moving around easier and more efficient.
And, ideally, to make room for more robots.