Delivery robots in high demand, serve Mountain View area

In the wake of the pandemic, delivery robots are in high demand. Several businesses in downtown Mountain View are using bots to deliver food to customers in surrounding neighborhoods.

Black and white bots, that move at pedestrian speed and weigh no more than 100 pounds, can be seen navigating Castro Street in downtown Mountain View.

“No human interaction there, no worry about someone holding their bag or touching it,” said Chris Neider of Starship Technologies.

The self-driving robots are created by San Francisco-based Starship Technologies. The company was founded in 2014 by the owners of Skype. The bots were first seen on college campuses and are now branching out to deliver meals and groceries from stores to neighborhoods.

“Once COVID hit, people really saw the need for contactless delivery in a big way,” said Neider.

Customers within a two-mile radius order through a mobile app. Bots are sanitized before delivery. The stores put the items in, close the lid, lock it and off they go.

“I actually love them, very easy, very simple, I like the company,” said Majed Fakhouri, Owner of Crepevine.

Crepevine is one of at least half a dozen restaurants and markets that use the robots. It’s saving Crepevine 20%.

“Robots always make people, humans uneasy there's different kind of fears,” said San Jose State Assistant Professor of Philosophy Etienne Brown.

Brown specializes in the philosophy of technology. He said, there are fears of automation replacing human workers, loss of employee tax revenue and safety.

“I do think there's legitimate safety concerns,” said Brown. “There have been crash scenarios.”

“Our robots have 10 cameras on them, they've got radars, they've got ultrasonics,” said Neider.

The company said the robots are equipped with sensors so they can cross streets safely. The use sidewalks and their maximum speed is four miles an hour. Customers retrieve their order with an app.

“I definitely see robots in the future in helping us get the stuff that we want,” said Neider.

The company charges customers and restaurants a fee similar to other delivery services. In California, the city of Mountain View is the only current city the bots are operating in with plans to expand.