Robots Take Over Pizza Delivery
May 31, 2021
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by Stephen Kanyi

With Dominos, the largest pizza restaurant in the world, planning to launch their own autonomous pizza delivery service, robot delivery is officially taking off. The technology has mostly been in development and in just a few select areas in the US and Europe. Today it is becoming more popular all around the globe. This has especially been expediated by the pandemic.

COVID has hit the restaurant business hard. With lockdowns and bans on public eating and gathering most restaurants have been effectively shut down living under life support from governments. Autonomous food delivery by robots has thus become a much welcome alternative for restaurants worldwide. It is no surprise then when large restaurants like Dominos are switching to autonomous delivery to boost their sales.

Succeed where others Failed?

Dominos however is not the first to use robots for pizza deliveries. Zume was one of the pioneer companies in this space, partnering with Pizza Hut to deliver pizza in the state of California. The company however folded early last year. It was unable to keep up with the huge costs of operation which were said to amount to almost $10 million a day!

It will be interesting to see whether Dominos will succeed where Zume failed. This time however, Dominos will have the advantage of superior autonomous technology. Part of the reason Zume was spending so much in operations was because they used ‘huge’ autonomous vehicles such as trucks and robotaxis which operate on highways. These are a little harder to operate and have huge energy demands. Dominos is instead using smaller vehicles called the Nuro. 

Smaller Robots

Nuro robots were developed by two former members of Google’s famous self-driving car project. They are about half the size of a regular car and travel at much lower speeds. It was the first company to get official approval in the US to operate driverless vehicles without conventional controls such as steering and brakes.

And perhaps smaller is better when it comes to food delivery. This is a view shared by Starship Technologies, perhaps the most popular startup in the autonomous delivery space. Started by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, the Tempe Arizona based startup has been in operation since 2014. It spent four years in development and then rolled the world’s first town-centre robot delivery service in Milton Keynes.

Today the company has a factory in Tallin, Estonia. It also has about 120 robots in Milton Keynes with another 20 in Northampton and various other American cities and universities. Starship also has operations in Europe with Daimler a shareholder in the business making things interesting.

Their robots are about the size of a shopping cart and are designed for low speed along sidewalks. They can carry up to 20 pounds, can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night and can even operate in both snow and rain.

Starship however is not the only company in this space. Companies like Amazon, Eliport and AutoX are also in the race to develop the much-needed technology.

Will they succeed? Only time will tell, what we can be sure of is that the restaurant is ripe for change, and those that can leverage this phenomenon will reap big!

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