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Technology news: Robot delivery in B.C.

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A robot designed by a British Columbia-based company recently hit the streets and delivered a customer’s order for the first time.

In an ongoing partnership with retailer London Drugs, InDro Robotics Last week, we stepped up our testing of ROLL-E 2.0. Initially, it could load a robotic cart and send it to a customer for pickup on the street.

The latest phase of the pilot project is testing the ability to make longer trips and pick up orders at people’s doorsteps.

CEO Philip Reece says ROLL-E has successfully traveled several kilometers with its first delivery in Surrey last week.

“It crossed several roads, challenged several pavements, climbed up and down several curbs, and finally reached its destination.

“They never had to leave their homes. They delivered full shopping carts. Having a robot come to your door for delivery is always a novelty.”

ROLL-E is operated by humans who monitor the cameras and control their movements. Equipped with signal lights and brake lights, passers-by will know where they are going. A large part of the testing the company does, Reece said, is to monitor how people react when they see machines “hanging” on streets and sidewalks.

“Delivery of items is actually very easy. Robots interacting with roads and sidewalks is very easy. Here’s how: Will people interact with robots?” explains Reese.

“Even those of us who work with robots all the time are amazed at how insouciant people are about them.”

But if someone is startled by a robot, Reece says a human can “with a microphone” explain what ROLL-E is and what it’s doing.

Reece says there are plans to increase the robot’s capabilities and is building two more. Ultimately, he believes technology will become more ubiquitous.

“We’re trying to gauge what people want, and the only way to really find that is to serve more and more,” says Reece.

Convenience is one obvious reason why people choose home delivery. It doesn’t matter if it’s done by a robot or a person. But Reece says there are other benefits to using these fully electric robots.

“It’s like running your car off the road. You rush out of the car, jump in the car, rush to the store, grab a pint of milk or something, and drive all the way back. ROLL. -E could do all these deliveries and short hops about the same speed if it were fully electric, but arguably much greener,” he says.

“It has no carbon footprint. The more deliveries we make, the more cars we want off the road.”

The company has long used drone deliveries in more rural and remote areas. According to Reece, these robots are good choices for urban and suburban locations. He cites California, where robots are becoming more common, as a sign of what’s to come here in Canada.

“We’re making it a little more Canadian. We’re making the robot a little more polite and easier on the eyes. So maybe not as fast as it’s there, but deploy it. “

Using files from Alyssa Thibaud of CTV Vancouver

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