Refraction AI announced today that it is expanding its delivery robot service outside of Michigan and into Austin, Texas. This is the second location for Refraction’s robots, which will offer restaurant delivery in the South Congress, Downtown and Travis Heights neighborhoods.
Refraction is a little different from other robot delivery players in the space. Unlike Kiwibot or Starship, which make cooler-sized sidewalk robots, Refraction’s REV-1 robot is bigger, faster, and meant to drive in city bike lanes. The REV-1 is meant for suburban areas with a sizeable population in a relatively contained geography. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Refraction originated, the REV-1 has a delivery radius of roughly 3.5 miles.
That Refraction chose Austin as its second location is really not a surprise. Though the company was founded in Michigan, Luke Schneider, who was brought in as Refraction CEO last fall, is based in Austin, TX. When Refraction raised $4.2 million earlier this year, Schneider told me that part of that money would go towards building up operations in Austin.
Southside Flying Pizza will be the first restaurant offering Refraction’s robot delivery option. The Austin pilot will debut with a fleet of 10 robots with the possibility of more being added as more restaurant partners join the program. Customers in the service area will place orders directly through participating restaurants and choose robot delivery. Text messages are sent to the customer with delivery updates, notification when the robot arrives and a unique code to unlock the robot.
Worth noting is that in the press release announcing the Austin expansion, Refraction only mentions restaurant partners at launch and not grocery delivery. With its rather sizeable cargo hold, groceries are a good fit for the REV-1, and during the pandemic last year Refraction quickly added grocery delivery in Ann Arbor as people looked for contactless ways to get their food. I presume we’ll see grocery partners added to the list should REV-1’s delivery catch on with consumers.