If you live in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, you can see sunshine, the occasional movie star, and now delivery robots shuttling food to hungry local denizens.
According to the Daily Bruin, Kiwi Campus started rolling out its delivery robots at the beginning of this month. Westwood is home to UCLA, so this particular expansion makes sense given that Kiwi already operates at and around UC Berkeley.
A spokesperson for Kiwi told the Daily Bruin that the company picked UCLA because of the compact nature of the campus. It probably doesn’t hurt that LA typically has great weather throughout the year, thereby reducing at least one bit of complexity for the autonomous, cooler-sized robots to navigate around.
Kiwi is working with 15 Westwood businesses including Subway, Jamba Juice and Veggie Grill. For now, however, robot deliveries are only being made off campus as Kiwi doesn’t have the necessary permits for them to scurry around campus. Until those are sorted out Kiwi will offer a human delivery person for on-campus deliveries.
Campuses in general are becoming a popular option for robot delivery companies. Earlier this year Kiwi rival Starship announced that it would be deploying 1,000 delivery robots by the end of this year and that campuses (both academic and corporate) would be a major avenue of growth for them.
Starting with campuses is a smart idea for robot delivery. They are like starter cities. First, you have a sizeable audience of students and workers who spend most of their time there. Working on campuses (at least private ones) can also help sidestep some of the municipal legal issues that come with running robots on city streets. Campuses are also typically well maintained, so roads and walkways won’t have as many hazards to navigate.
You might think students would be excited to have futuristic, self-driving robots running around their campus. But the reactions reported by the Daily Bruin were much more negative. Rather than a marvel of technology, students quoted saw them as easy targets for theft, causes of increased congestion and basically just something that won’t catch on.
Of course, if I had movie stars in my backyard, I may feel the same way (but maybe with this expansion Uber will give Kiwi a closer look).