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Tonight's Dinner? In a Cooler-Sized Robot That Knows Where You Live

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A delivery robot whizzes by.

Food companies are experimenting with autonomous delivery via small robots.

Credit: John Kuczala

As a stop-gap measure on the road to driverless automobiles, venture-backed startups have dispatched several hundred cooler-sized robots in cities like Berkeley, CA, to deliver food and groceries to customers' doorsteps.

Food companies hope this automation will reduce delivery costs and ease a driver shortage.

According to venture capitalists, growing animus about the power and reach of technology in everyday life creates a challenge for startups to make their delivery robots appear innocuous, with curbside machines likely to face opposition from both regulators and ordinary people.

For example, San Francisco has set up a permit system that allows only nine sidewalk delivery robots to operate in parts of the city.

Meanwhile, Washington state lawmakers are pushing a bill to mandate monitoring of such robots by remote human operators.

From The Wall Street Journal
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