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A day in the life of a delivery robot

A day in the life of a delivery robot


They look like shopping carts with eyes. They’ve been attacked by vandals and thieves. Thousands more are coming. But behind the scenes, the delivery robots need a helping hand.

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Walk down Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, and you might stumble on something that seems out of place: a robot, about waist high, with headlights shaped like blinking eyes and its own name stenciled on the side.

These robots are owned by Serve Robotics, a company that spun out of app-based delivery service Postmates about six years ago. For over a year now, Serve has been working with Uber Eats to deliver food to thousands of people in Los Angeles as part of its ongoing experiment to see how AI and robotics can transform the way we get our food.

Serve likes to promote its robots as “Level 4” autonomous, meaning they are able to make all their own decisions under certain circumstances. But behind the scenes, a small army of human helpers stands ready to step in when something goes wrong.

And sometimes it does. On TikTok, the robots are often subject to ridicule, abuse, and occasionally vandalism. They’ve become supporting characters in the long-running reality show known as Hollywood.

We spent the day with Serve’s robots, and their human babysitters, and talked to the CEO to get a sense of whether on-demand robot delivery can truly scale the way Serve envisions, and to answer the question: why do we even need delivery robots?