Image credit: Serve Robotics
In Canada, more and more meals are being distributed by robots; for example, the Pizza Hut chain uses Serve Robotics for deliveries in certain areas of Vancouver. But several large cities have banned their use, such as in Toronto, where municipal authorities last year banned the pink robots named Geoffrey from the company Tiny Mile.
The cities that are reluctant to do so explain their decision by saying that they would pose a danger to people with poor vision or poor mobility, especially the elderly and children. The cyclists would not like that either, as they already complain about the presence of electric scooters on the cycle paths.
“The robots get a lot of attention from pedestrians when they walk on sidewalks because you don’t see them very often; people are packed, describes Prabhjot Gill, an associate partner at the firm McKinsey & Co. But if their jobs continue to grow, it could cause traffic jams on the already tight sidewalks. »
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance president David Lepofsky adds that he doesn’t believe they can co-exist with humans because they can cause accidents. “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. Others worry that robots controlled overseas will replace delivery people here.
Innovation above all
According to Vancouver-based Serve Robotics CEO Ali Kashani, criticism is part of the natural cycle of innovation. He gives the example of the bicycle, because when it was invented, many feared that it would cause an increase in divorces.
The goal of this equipment is to reduce traffic, encourage local commerce and help restaurants deliver meals to their customers at a lower cost. The company says that given restaurants’ low profit margins, labor shortages and climate change concerns, “why deliver a two-pound burrito with a two-ton vehicle?” »
Manish Dhankhler, a senior manager at Pizza Hut Canada, admits that delivering pizza isn’t worth risking anyone’s safety. However, he reports that the chain first partnered with Serve Robotics when their robots completed several thousand deliveries without harming anyone on the mainland. These alert passers-by of their presence by emitting a sound and flashing lights. They are equipped with a steering system and emergency brakes that enable them to avoid collisions.
Ali Kashani estimates that the environment will win and explains that half of the deliveries cover a distance of less than 2.5 km and 90% of them are by car. At the same time, he estimates that around 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions are due to people using their cars to run errands in their neighbourhood.
“We want to learn more,” says Manish Dhankhler. What would happen if they were used in the snowy areas of Saskatchewan? How would robots react in the ice? At the moment, therefore, she is not yet ready to use the robots on a permanent basis.
(The Canadian Press)