Kiwi continues to roll out its diminutive li’l food delivery robots to more cities, with plans to begin operations in Sacramento, CA in September.
CBS13 first reported the story last week. While CBS13 didn’t provide many details around the Sacramento program, what caught our eye about the report is that Kiwi is working on this latest expansion directly with the city, which wants to become an urban technology lab. Most of Kiwi’s expansion so far has been through universities. Kiwi started out at the University of California in Berkeley and announced plans to be in a dozen more schools starting this fall including Stanford, UC Davis, Purdue, Cornell, and NYU.
Starting with universities makes sense for the nascent technology as campuses provide a sizeable population in a limited geographic area. Typically campuses have or are surrounded by plenty of restaurants to feed hungry students and faculties, and using a robot could make delivering those meals more convenient. Going the campus route is a strategy also employed by Starship for its delivery robot and Robby’s mobile commerce robot.
For Kiwi, going through schools also provides an infrastructure for running delivery operations, as students will be running operations at each school. We don’t have a ton of details on those programs (like how any money is split) but students will be responsible for robot maintenance and deployments. We reached out to Kiwi to find out more information about how the Sacramento program will work and will update when we hear back.
Kiwi’s robots are “semi-autonomous,” as they still have human operators who monitor a robot’s route and drop GPS waypoints for the robot to follow. I used Kiwi earlier this year at Berkeley and it felt like ordering food from the future. Aside from one glitch, it was pretty amazing to whip out my phone, order a burrito, have a robot fetch my lunch and bring it to my location.
Kiwi will begin testing in Sacramento this fall and hopes to have a fleet of 50 robots running around the streets of the city at some point.