Reader Derek had an unusual encounter in the neighborhood on Monday:
While out shopping for groceries this afternoon I saw what looked like a large gas range BBQ on wheels rolling along the sidewalk. On closer inspection I saw that it was actually being controlled by a woman walking behind it with a hand held remote that resembled a PlayStation controller.
The “bot” appears to be a device that Eat24 (Yelp) is testing for food delivery in select cities. The robot is made by Marble, who is “creating a fleet of intelligent courier robots to reliably and securely transport the goods that people need and want in a way that is accessible to everyone”.
Techcrunch explained how it works when the test officially launched in April: “Users order as they normally would through the Yelp Eat24 site or app. They are asked if they’re cool with robot delivery. If they opt in, they get a pin code texted to their phone, which they can use to unlock the robot’s cargo bay when their Marble delivery arrives. After retrieving their food, they close the door and the robot returns to Marble HQ or another restaurant.”
According to Marble’s website, the bots “use advanced sensors and high-resolution 3D city maps to efficiently and politely navigate busy urban environments. Our robots have swappable cargo bays to transport various types of goods – the best way to transport warm meals isn’t necessarily the best way to transport medicine.”
This isn’t the first delivery bot to invade the Richmond District. In September 2016 a Starship Technologies bot delivered a meal from Orson’s Belly on Balboa at a speedy 4 miles per hour.
For now, Marble sends a human chaperone along with each bot as it makes their deliveries. So the next time you order from Eat24, you may just get your food via a robot. Feel free to tip it, but it’s not required.