Woowa Brothers, which owns the popular Baedal Minjok food delivery service in Korea, announced yesterday that it started using robots for delivery on public streets just outside of Seoul.
Woowa’s “Dilly Drive” robots will have a very limited run at first, only making deliveries to Gwanggyo Alley Way, a multipurpose housing complex in Gwanggyo, Suwon city.
The Dilly service can be used by any of the 1,100 residents of the housing complex, or the public at large. To place an order, customers use the Baemin mobile app and the robot will either arrive at the first floor of the Gwanggyo Alley Way, or to tables outfitted with special QR codes in the complex’s plaza.
The Dilly Drive robots sport six wheels, move at a speed between 4 – 5 kilometers per hour (roughly the speed of a person walking) and can carry roughly 6 lunch boxes. The self-driving Dilly Drives can detect and avoid objects, people, and pets, and the robots now come equipped with remote control, presumably so a human can take over should one get stuck or incapacitated.
According to the press release, this is the first public use of food delivery robots in Korea. Woowa had previously tested the Dilly robots at Konkuk University in a pilot program back in November 2019.
While this may be the first public use of delivery robots in Korea, chances are good that it won’t be the last. The global COVID-19 pandemic has sparked the acceleration of contactless methods of delivery. Robots like the Dilly Drive, as well as those from Starship and Kiwibot, remove at least one human from the delivery equation. Robots also bring the added benefits of being able to work long hours without a break and never getting sick.
With the launch of the Dilly Drive, I’m curious to see if Woowa Founder and CEO Kim Bong-Jin will follow up on an idea he had a couple years back. During a press interview back in July 2018, Bong-Jin expressed an interest in having robots not only deliver food but also take away recycling. As more people have ordered delivery during this pandemic quarantine, single-use plastics have become a bigger problem. If a delivery robot could drop off food in a recyclable/re-usable container and then pick it up on its next trip, that could really help put a dent in the waste created by restaurant delivery.