Delivery robot spontaneously bursts into flames in California

Image: The Daily Californian

An autonomous food delivery robot burst into flames on a Berkeley, California walkway on Friday, as first reported by The Daily Californian. Kiwi, the startup that makes and manages the one hundred-strong fleet of robots, issued a statement to say that the fire was quickly extinguished by a passerby before the city’s fire department arrived and doused the machine in foam. No one was harmed as a result of the incident.

Kiwi suspended its service until it was able to complete its investigation. It said that it believed the fire was caused by human error, when a faulty battery was manually inserted into the robot, eventually causing thermal runaway — the same issue that resulted in the recall of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phones. Kiwi says that a new piece of software will “rigorously monitor the state of each battery” to prevent anything like this from happening again.

Kiwi said the incident resulted in “some smoke and minor flames.” But video captured of the event shows the robot engulfed in the kind of fiercely burning fireball typically associated with battery fires.

The KiwiBots are currently only available in Berkeley, and are designed to handle the last 300 meters of food deliveries. Kiwi’s delivery process costs $3.80, and is formed of three different parts. First a robot carries a food order from a restaurant’s counter to the street, where it is then picked up by a courier on a tricycle. This courier then takes the food delivery to within a few hundred meters of its destination, before a KiwiBot is used to take it directly to a person’s door. The service launched in 2017, and as of May this year had made over 10,000 such deliveries with an average delivery time of 27 minutes, according to the company.

The incident comes at a critical time for the nascent robot delivery industry. Several companies including Starship, and more recently Postmates, have either announced or already begun testing their autonomous delivery services. However at least one city, San Francisco, has imposed limits on the use of these machines by requiring them to have permits and restricting their use to less-crowded areas of the city. Images of Kiwi’s flaming robot in a public space are unlikely to abate these concerns.

Comments

Must have been a hot deal delivery

Must have been a very spicy burrito.

just trying to impart that flame broiled taste!

There reasoning that it was caused by "human error" is laughable. Sure it might technically hold up but to imply that the person who installed a faulty battery is at fault is silly. If you tell me the battery is faulty then I would say it is the battery’s fault.

Maybe the "human error" is by the employees who designed these without any safeguards in the first place.

Maybe the employée took the battery from the "faulty bin" or an employee failed to put a bad battery in said "faulty bin".

They installed the brain from the vat that said ‘Abby-Normal’

Abby who?

Abby Cornish.

so a delivery robot caught fire on berkeley’s campus and students set up a candlelight vigil for it

Robots are people too… specially if they are smart and made in a responsible, sustainable manner. Not joking

First a robot carries a food order from a restaurant’s counter to the street, where it is then picked up by a courier on a tricycle. This courier then takes the food delivery to within a few hundred meters of its destination, before a KiwiBot is used to take it directly to a person’s door.

Kinda sounds like they could just have the courier do the whole thing and eliminate the need for explosive robots.

Right? This sounds like a bunch of investors are so interested in the latest shiny thing that they don’t have any common sense.

Sounds like v1, before end-to-end trip version is ready

Lithium Iron Phosphate is looking like a slightly more expensive chemistry, but much a safer alternative battery.

You can’t put a price on a robot’s life.

Welcome to the future

You’re early. The future begins now.

The video-taker yelled "HEY FUCKNUT, GET OUTTA THE WAY" right when I was thinking it.

Not in those exact same words, but I was pretty much thinking the same thing but more profane way.

Something in California caught on fire? Shocker!

I blame PG&E.

Not for nothing, but this should be a real concern for companies -
Imagine if the robot caught fire and started another mass fire.?

We were testing our robot for CRC 2018 the other day, suddenly a mechanical rotating organism got stuck, but the motor pushing the organism continued to run at full voltage, smokes went up, and it wasn’t long before we added a fail safe into the program….

This is a good news story: it was a delivery of burnt ends.

That’s-a SPICY meat-a ball-a!!

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