Redwood City’s council last week approved renewing a pilot program for up to 24 months allowing permitted operators to offer autonomous robots for deliveries in the city.
Two previous pilot projects since early 2017 had Starship Technologies, Inc. operating Personal Delivery Devices on city sidewalks between businesses and homes in partnership with Door Dash and Post Mates. During the trial periods, Starship was making 30 to 40 deliveries per day using 12 robots. The city received just five complaints during both pilot programs, and staff says the electric-powered robots likely had a positive impact on traffic and the environment.
Last year, Starship, a London-based company that has tested their PDDs in over 100 cities, ceased operations to redefine its business, to explore a new service and operations hub in Redwood City and to prep for its Redwood City relaunch by conducting “an extensive driving and mapping campaign,” according to the city.
The new pilot program will allow up to three permits for providers of Personal Delivery Devices, and Starship will be among the permit holders, the city said.
Starship has a lot planned for Redwood City. Local residents will see upgraded robot that can carry up to three bags of groceries, weighs up to 80 pounds and can deliver up to four miles with a maximum speed of four miles per hour, city documents state. During transit, the device is locked and secured and can only be opened using the customer’s mobile app.
Starship is planning to roll out a grocery delivery program in partnership with Dehoff’s Key Market in the Roosevelt Neighborhood and other local restaurants to service the Central, Palm Park, Roosevelt, and Woodside Plaza neighborhoods, according to city staff.
The company is also eyeing a partnership with Redwood City Library on a book delivery program that would have three to eight robots delivering from the Downtown Library to seniors and other physically challenged residents, a program “which would be one of the first in the world,” the city said.
City staff believes this delivery system allows “for some restaurants and businesses to serve a greater number of customers, supporting business activity and customer convenience.”