MEDELLIN, Colombia – Some 15 robots traverse the streets of Medellin to deliver food orders to homes as part of a pilot plan launched by Colombian companies Rappi and KiwiBot to avoid person-to-person contact during the quarantine to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
This technological development, which was initially tested in El Poblado neighborhood, has carried out the delivery of nearly 120 orders to homes in the first period of operation.
“We are exploring this alternative, which in the context of the coronavirus becomes more visible when making a delivery without contact,” Rappi’s Colombia country manager, Matias Laks, told EFE.
Laks explained that when the order reaches Rappi – a home delivery application – the order is “routed” to a robot that, once it has the package inside, autonomously starts the delivery process.
“These small things that go by themselves draw a lot of attention from people on the street. It has been a lot of fun,” said the Rappi spokesperson, who also explained that the user only finds out that his delivery man is a robot when the order arrives.
“It creates a very positive impact,” he added about this system, which operates short routes and exclusively delivers orders from restaurants paid for digitally.
For him, these types of advances are common in the US or European and Asian countries, but people are not used to seeing “this kind of thing happening in Latin America.”
As for the cleaning procedure, Laks explained that they maintain the same protocol used with the delivery drivers, only in this case it is adapted to the technological device: “the cabin of the robot is disinfected.”
The robots of KiwiBot, a Colombian company based in the US, with an innovation center in Medellin, can carry deliveries up to 35 square centimeters and 8 kilograms. They also operate with an electric battery.
These small trolleys, which even “use” a raincoat to protect themselves from the rain, have four wheels, GPS and sensors that allow them to move smoothly through the streets of Medellin, as they did in Berkeley where they were tested three years ago.
KiwiBot Chief Executive Felipe Chavez pointed out that “the new reality we are facing makes us think of new possibilities.”
Although initially planning to extend the pilot until July, the companies hope to “continue exploring,” measure results and see how this system is “installed” in this sector, and then extend this type of delivery to other areas of Medellin and to other cities.
“It is a technology that complements what we have,” said the manager of Rappi, who emphasized that robots do not “in any way replace” deliveries made by ‘rappitenderos’, the company’s delivery drivers.
The quarantine to contain the expansion of COVID-19 in Colombia, which began on Mar. 25 and will run until May 11, has led to the increase in home deliveries, with gourmet restaurants trying to survive the closure by adopting the concept of fast food chains.