Robots in Mountain View are already driving passengers, running security patrols and baking pizzas. But very soon, these automatons could also be delivering dinner, going on beer runs or picking up your dry cleaning.
Three startup companies have recently asked Mountain View officials for permission to test out their prototype delivery bots in town. These robots — some of which look like they were built to explore the surface of Mars — will instead be navigating the city’s sidewalks and learning to maneuver around pedestrians, pets and traffic.
Mountain View officials say they are eager to serve as the technology’s proving ground. City staff expect to draft policies for a pilot program later this year.
To hear the companies describe it, delivery robots are nearly ready for prime time. The technology closely mirrors the race to develop self-driving cars, with 12 companies around the world reportedly competing to design delivery bots.
“It’s a super exciting time for the industry,” said Henry Harris-Burland, vice president of marketing for Starship Technologies. “This is an emerging industry that I compare to self-driving cars. I see delivery bots as following a similar trajectory.”
For Starship, the testing phase in Mountain View will focus on food delivery. Headquartered in London, Starship has already set up shop in the Bay Area with a satellite office in Redwood City. In May, that Peninsula city launched a nine-month pilot program to test out the Starship’s robots on public sidewalks. Since then, Starship has also started testing out similar deliveries in San Carlos, Sunnyvale, Concord and Walnut Creek.
In Redwood City, the pilot program has gone…
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