Food Delivery Robots Targeted by Thieves in the U.S.

In the bustling streets of Tallinn and college campuses across the US, autonomous robots have swiftly risen to fame as the newest delivery guys in town

by Faruk Imamovic
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Food Delivery Robots Targeted by Thieves in the U.S.

In the bustling streets of Tallinn and college campuses across the US, autonomous robots have swiftly risen to fame as the newest delivery guys in town. And while they offer quick and efficient deliveries, a new challenge emerges: vandalism.

A Booming Business with Growing Pains

Companies like Bolt have eagerly entered the food and grocery delivery robot realm. In a collaboration with Starship Technologies, Bolt revealed plans in June to dispatch a fleet of robots for door-to-door deliveries in Tallinn.

Starship Technologies, which by 2019 had already expanded its range of robotic couriers to various US colleges, leads the charge in this modern revolution. Yet, it hasn't been a smooth ride. These hardworking machines have unfortunately become prime targets for vandals.

In disturbing videos circulated earlier this month, culprits are seen assaulting the robots – either to pilfer the packages they carry or simply to wreck them. Such incidents not only put a dent in the robots but also on businesses that need to foot the bill for the damages.

Steve Avila, general manager of Blu Jam Café in Hollywood, remarked, “We have to remake the food, but luckily we still get reimbursed for that. I can see how [delivery companies] can be hurting from it, especially because it seems like [the delivery robots] are pretty expensive”.

Safety First: Companies Fight Back

Despite the challenges, businesses like Server Robots in West Hollywood boast a 99.9 percent successful delivery rate. Others, including Starship Technologies, are reinforcing their robots against potential threats.

“If someone tries to block the robots, they will attempt to maneuver around them or politely ask them to move,” said a representative from Starship Technologies. “Our robots are equipped with loud sirens for protection, and they are always locked and monitored by 12 cameras”.

The underlying motivations for these attacks vary. While some are disgruntled about robots potentially replacing human jobs, others are simply hoping for a free meal at the robot's expense. These differences notwithstanding, there's unanimous agreement that such vandalism should be stopped.

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