For example, the Pizza Hut chain uses robots from the company Earn Robotics for its deliveries in certain areas of Vancouver. In Toronto, pink robots named Geoffrey delivered meals to the company Little Milebut city authorities banned them last year.
The goal of these robots is to reduce traffic, encourage local commerce and help restaurants deliver meals to their customers at a lower cost.
To Earn Roboticsa subsidiary of US delivery company Postmates, the logic is simple: given restaurants’ low profit margins, labor shortages and climate change concerns,
why deliver a two pound burrito with a two ton vehicle?
But the appearance of these robots does not make everyone happy.
Several major cities have banned its use. According to them, robots pose a danger to people with poor vision or poor mobility, to the elderly and to children. Cyclists already rage against e-scooters on cycle paths and don’t want to see robots there either.
” Robots attract a lot of attention from pedestrians when they walk on sidewalks because you don’t see them very often. People are excited to see them. But if their employment continues to grow, it could cause traffic jams on the already tight sidewalks. »
Others worry about seeing robots controlled overseas replacing delivery people here.
According to the CEO of Earn Robotics in Vancouver, Ali Kashani, criticism is part of the natural cycle of innovation. For example, when the bicycle was invented, many feared it would lead to an increase in divorces, he says.
Mr. Kashani defends his robots by pointing out that they alert people to their presence by making a sound and flashing lights. They are equipped with intelligence, a steering system and emergency brakes so they can avoid collisions.
He believes that the use of robots will ultimately benefit everyone.
And the environment will win. Sir. Kashani estimates that half of the deliveries only cover a distance of less than 2.5 km. And 90% of them are by car. About 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to people using their cars to run errands in their neighborhood.
There are several reasons to quickly replace “delivery” cars with these robots. However, we have no reason to make everyone our enemy.admits Mr Kashani.
Well aware that new ideas often meet resistance, Earn Robotics is cautious in its discussions with authorities and governments before launching its service in a city. There are no laws that prohibit or allow robots.
The president ofAccessibility for Ontarians with the Disability Act Alliance, David Lepofsky, does not believe that robots can coexist with humans. They can cause accidents. Even worse, they can be used to transport contraband or weapons.
Mr. Lepofsky insists that his opposition to robots does not mean he is against innovation. He just wants to make sure the streets stay safe for everyone.
” It’s not like we’re depriving people of a service. There is a way to deliver pizzas as we deliver pizzas: we call it a human. »
Manish Dhankhler, a senior manager at Pizza Hut Canada, admits that delivering pizza isn’t worth risking anyone’s safety. He points out, however, that the chain has only established a collaboration with Earn Robotics as their robots made several thousand deliveries without harming anyone on the mainland.
However, the chain is not yet ready to use robots on a permanent basis.
” We want to learn more. What would happen if they were used in the snowy areas of Saskatchewan? How would robots react in the ice? »
As for the Geoffrey robot, it was also observed in Ottawa, but there too the municipal authorities refused to allow its use. TinyMiles had to leave Canada.
We were almost bankrupt, agrees Ignacio Tartavull, the company’s CEO. It’s a miracle we survived!
TinyMiles moved its operations to Florida and North Carolina.
It was love at first sight! exclaims Mr. Tartavull. We have spoken to municipal authorities and they are competing for us.