Automation

California City OKs Delivery Robots Programs

The Walnut Creek City Council is allowing two companies to pilot “last-mile” delivery robots.

by Sam Richards, East Bay Times / January 3, 2018
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(TNS) — WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — They have already been sighted here and there on downtown streets in recent months (with human handlers nearby), but small delivery robots figure to be making more appearances now that the city council has approved agreements with two more companies for pilot programs specializing in “last-mile deliveries.”

What had been a toe dip for Walnut Creek has now become a walk into the ocean, with the city council on Dec. 19 asking city staff to set up pilot programs with two companies, Oakland-based Boxbot and Marble Robotics, based in San Francisco. The agreements would run through May 2019, at which time they will be evaluated.

These follow the July approval of a similar pilot program with Starship Technologies, an England-based company with an office in Redwood City, for autonomous robots in Walnut Creek. With the December approvals, all three companies will operate separate local pilot programs.

Walnut Creek will be the first pilot program for Boxbot, which focuses on package delivery, and will start in early 2018, said Austin Oehlerking, Boxbot’s CEO.

Marble builds courier robots that can deliver anything from food and groceries to prescriptions. Marble already has a presence both in San Francisco and in Concord, where the city council struck a deal with them this past summer.

The Boxbot and Marble “personal delivery devices” (PDDs) will be allowed to operate throughout Walnut Creek, wherever sidewalks exist. Their main territory figures to be the downtown area, where business-to-business and business-to-resident connections in close proximity abound. But the PDDs could also see use in places like the Shadelands Business Park, where there is potential for business-to-business deliveries.

“We’re excited about the East Bay in general,” Oehlerking said in an email Thursday. “Walnut Creek has great infrastructure and a population that orders a lot of e-commerce. The building density and traffic level are ideal for an autonomous delivery network.”

©2018 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.