First it was bicycles, then scooters, and now automated food delivery carts are coming to clutter up Dallas sidewalks.
D Magazine reports that Dallas City Council voted on Wednesday to approve a pilot program for a fleet of robotic food carts, namely from San Francisco-based Marble. Anyone who was around during the hotly contested bike share debate is surely rolling their eyes. The bikes were groundbreaking for underserved communities (read: locations without access to public transportation where people might not be able to afford a car or bikes for their kids), however they made dwellers in the upscale and dense urban neighborhoods very unhappy. Fleets of bikes cluttered sidewalks and were sometimes left in very inappropriate places, like say, on freeway medians or on homeowners’ front lawns.
Hot off the bike share failure, Mayor Mike Rawlings questioned specifics that weren’t offered in advance of the bikes descending on Dallas en masse, according to D Magazine’s reporting of the city council meeting. He wanted to know how many robotic delivery carts will be unleashed on Dallas streets and what restrictions will be placed on their travel. According to Department of Transportation Director Michael Rogers, the bots will be limited to a one-mile radius, they’ll top out at five miles an hour, and will have an actual human being accompany them during the pilot program.
Apparently the bots “use light sensors to detect their surroundings so they don’t clang into stuff, such as cars or dogs or people,” D Mag writes. We all know how well that worked with self-driving cars, especially in the case of this one that killed a pedestrian in Arizona this March, even with a human at the wheel.
Dallas’ robot delivery pilot limits each participating company to 20 robots. For now, it’s just Marble, but imagine the potential for disaster if each food service business in Deep Ellum had a fleet of 20 bots, especially with the hoards of pedestrians trying to get around on foot, or now, scooters. Apparently Arlington is also in talks with Marble. This idea has been controversial in other U.S. cities: tech-friendly San Francisco debated banning food delivery robots altogether.
The company will unleash its delivery bots in Dallas on November 1 for a six-month trial. Stay tuned for how this all plays out.