Food Delivery Robots Subjected to Cruel Human Behavior



A company just created a unique type of robot that could become a game-changer for the food delivery business but there seems to be a disturbing pattern of human abuse that has led the company to a conclusion that people can be very cruel to robots.

Robots Take Over Delivery Business

The brains behind Skype, a successful social application, founded a unique startup called Starship Technologies which is designing robots specifically for delivering food around London and other European cities. The company announced that it will officially launch its new line of food delivery robots in July. However, there seems to be a slight hiccup that is making the company skeptical of using robots for door-to-door services.

The company’s co-founder, Ahti Heinla reported that on several occasions, people have tried to kick or push the robot after seeing it appear at their front door – luckily, the robot doesn’t feel the pain from the abuse and walks away after finishing the delivery

Starship Technologies, which has established a headquarter in London, is planning to expand production to the United States, although the risk of people misbehaving with the innovative machines is much higher in America than in Europe, says Heinla. The company will conduct its first test run in the U.S. later this year, starting with the streets of Washington D.C., which is the first city to give approval to electronic delivery services by road.

Cost and Efficiency

Starship’s new robots are completely autonomous and secure, which means that only the recipient has the permission to access the contents of the machine using a secret password provided by the delivery company. The purpose of using the robots is to provide a cheap and efficient delivery service, especially for frequently ordered goods like food and groceries. The company says that it aims to reduce delivery costs in London from $15 to a little over $1.

Starship has already established partnerships with various food and grocery companies including Just Eat which is currently the popularly used food delivery service in Europe. The startup hasn’t disclosed any of its partnerships in the U.S. and only time will tell if it will be able to defeat some of the well-established competitors such as Uber Eats and Postmates.

The little bots created by the startup company are the size of small igloo coolers and can carry up to 18 kgs of delivery goods. The little bots travel at the speed of 10 mph (Washington’s law does not allow them to go any faster than that) and are able to avoid traffic due their size, making them a more efficient means of delivering goods.

During the testing phase the company has set the machines’ speed limit to just above 4 mph, but the machine learning mechanism allows them to pick up important information about traffic, route and weather so that they can relay it to the rest of the delivery fleet for faster learning.

This technique was first employed by Tesla in its self-driving cars.

Threat from Humans, Not AI

Heinla said most of the people showed positive response towards the robots with the exception of a few who decided to use the robots for anger management techniques by pushing or kicking them around as they drove by. The company has encountered such instants of abuse before including the time when a man tried to rip the flag off the robot in 2016 while it was performing its routine delivery.

The Skype co-founder isn’t worried too much about the robots being damaged from human abuse because the robots are capable to capturing a 360-degree view around them with the 9 cameras installed as well have sirens to alert passersby if someone tries to give them a hard kick.

An insider revealed that the delivery robots have encountered over 15 million people in Europe so far and more than 80 percent of the interactions have been positive.

However, robot abuse is not a new phenomenon. In 2015, an experiment using a robot in Japanese shopping mall showed that some people – especially children – were more likely to misbehave with the machine when there were fewer people around. Maybe it is time to focus on how humans treat technology instead of sounding fears on AI, which has only added usefulness to our lives.


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