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Contactless delivery robots may soon hit a sidewalk near you

The future of autonomous vehicles is coming slower than expected—maybe less than 10 miles per hour.

But delivery robots don’t need to move even that fast to take groceries to customers. Where they’re going, they may not even need roads, just sidewalks. And now their inhumanity isn’t a bug but a feature for pandemic-weary shoppers anxious for touch-free deliveries.

“The demand for contactless delivery at an affordable price has permanently increased,” says Ryan Tuohy, senior vice president of business development at Starship Technologies.

That San Francisco firm—set up in Talinn, Estonia, in 2014 by two of Skype’s founders—brought its six-wheeled robots to George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, in January 2019, where they transport groceries and snacks for a $2 charge and have become a routine sight on that campus. Starship plans to have these battery-powered conveyances making deliveries around 15 U.S. colleges this fall.

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