Today, Wendy’s announced they will trial an underground delivery system later this year in partnership with Pipedream Labs. According to the announcement, the system will deliver orders to customers via a carside pick-up portal using “autonomous robots” that traverse an underground pipe system.
Spoon readers might remember Pipedream Labs as the company with big plans to build an underground delivery network of pipes around cities to shuttle food or other items all the way to the home. The company is working with Wendy’s and other restaurants in the near term – you gotta pay the bills after all – but still has hopes to build the bigger vision of a citywide underground delivery network.
In fact, in a recent Twitter thread, Pipedream CTO Canon Reeves said the company is now courting master-planned community builders with a system that would deliver into the home.
According to Reeves, the Home Portal system would look something like this:
And the delivery robots look like this:
Building these systems into new master-planned communities makes lots of sense for a couple of reasons, the first of which is retrofitting existing homes for underground to in-home delivery would be extremely hard and very expensive. Master-planned communities present greenfield build opportunities for concepts like this, where customers can be presented with the option as a feature in a new home, and the cost of the home system can be rolled into a mortgage. Home builders can also build out the delivery infrastructure as they lay down other infrastructure, either going underground or along the community right-of-way areas (as they did in Atlanta in a public right-of-way).
But even if the company just focuses on new build opportunities, the idea is still a little far-fetched, the kind of far-fetched where you almost need a utopia-curious billionaire who invests in crazy ideas to get behind something like this.
Someone like, I don’t know, Jeff Bezos:
According to Reeves, Bezos stopped by last month to check out the home delivery prototype. And while Reeves didn’t say anything beyond that – like Bezos is interested in investing in the system – one could speculate that the guy who founded the biggest online ordering marketplace in the US might just be curious about what a future with an underground delivery network might look like.
Could he be there on behalf of Amazon? Maybe. It’s not like Amazon doesn’t invest in delivery infrastructure, and, in fact, the company invested around $40 billion from 2014-2020 and continues to do so. And, let’s not forget, Amazon itself has explored the idea of underground delivery before and was granted a patent for the idea in 2017.
And even if this isn’t an Amazon thing, but a billionaire-investor-Jeff-Bezos-thing, Bezos has shown a penchant for investing in big ideas like space flight, and if Elon can build underground tunnels for shuttling people around in Teslas, Bezos would be fully in his right to thinks sending items around underground in pipes might have a future.