Geek out on this: First robot-powered delivery tested on Balboa this week

Starship Technology’s “friendly sidewalk robot” leaving Orson's Belly Cafe on Tuesday to make a delivery

Starship Technology’s “friendly sidewalk robot” leaves Orson’s Belly Cafe on Tuesday to make a delivery

On Tuesday, a new robotic delivery device completed its maiden voyage of a pastry delivery to a woman in the Richmond District.

Wait, what?

Yes, you read that right. It was a demonstration by Starship Technologies of the first ever “autonomous delivery robot”. The company is visiting San Francisco to consider the city for initial US trials of the delivery robots.

The demo consisted of an Orson’s Belly Cafe employee packing a box of pastries into the robot, which is a small, 40 lb wheeled device with a locking top that is about the size of a cooler.

It then took off – at just 4 miles per hour – and headed around the corner to the 20th Avenue home of Richmond District resident Julie O’Keefe who unlocked the device and removed her delivery. Mission accomplished.

The delivery robot uses nine cameras, GPS, software, and maps accurate to the nearest inch to navigate to its destination and back again. The goal is for the robots to be used for local deliveries within a 2 mile radius.

“Parcels and groceries are directly delivered from stores or specialised hubs, at the time that the client requests via a mobile app. It takes 5 to 30 minutes for the shipment to arrive and the robots’ entire journey can be monitored on a smartphone,” says the company.

According to the Chronicle, Starship plans to have 100 robots per human operator and to rent them out to other businesses on demand. To start, each delivery might cost a few dollars, but eventually the cost could be pennies per delivery.

Julie O’Keefe, the recipient of Monday’s futuristic test, was selected randomly by a Starship Technologies representative who went knocking on doors to ask for volunteers. The closest store to her was Orson’s Belly, a cafe that opened this year at 1737 Balboa near 19th Avenue, so the demo started there. No word on whether O’Keefe tipped the robot for its successful mission.

So what say you, Richmond District? Are you ready for robot deliveries?

Sarah B.

A starship delivery robot makes its first autonomous delivery of pastries to customer Julie O'Keefe (center), in San Francisco, California, on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016.  Photo: Gabrielle Lurie, Special To The Chronicle

A starship delivery robot makes its first autonomous delivery of pastries to customer Julie O’Keefe (center), in San Francisco, California, on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016.
Photo: Gabrielle Lurie, Special To The Chronicle


  1. I think a drone is a better local delivery option in San Francisco. With a drone all you have to do is open a window and the drone could fly in and drop off your beer on a table. With a wheeled vehicle you have the risk of falling down stairs to get your beer from the robot gizmo at street-level.

  2. Seems a easy mark for punks and thieves and a menace on a crowded sidewalk not to mention crossing the street and car encounters.

  3. They start out benign and helpful but once they become self aware you get ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and ‘THE TERMINATOR’ ;^)

  4. These are going to be expensive to replace when they are constantly being crushed by cars while crossing the street. Also How’s it going to ring my front bell and climb 4 flights of stairs?

  5. Can I get one to deliver from Arsicault, so I won’t have to wait in line?

  6. Finally! I can now order a pizza without having to see, hear, or smell another lower-caste human being during the entire process.

  7. Great!

    A device that is black and white and low to the ground. No way to see it if you are backing out of a garage. If you are in your 70’s or 80’s with bad sight, you can fall right over the thing. At an intersection while trying to keep an eye out for cars, kids, and bicyclists, you are supposed to see an ice chest at ground level that is moving across the sidewalk?

    This kind of technology is all about “me-isum” what I need, what I want, and to hell with everyone else in the neighborhood and their quality of life. Just because something can be done with technology does not mean it should be done.

  8. alright! great! geek out on even LESS jobs for people! let’s get those low income losers out of our new found city! we will be painting the GG bridge in Google colors next!!! fuck yeah!

    idiots. wake up.
    why the FUCK is this cool?

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