Dallas Leaders Like Plan to Put Robotic Delivery Vehicles on Streets

The city council is expected to take a formal vote next week on the test of robot delivery

What to Know

  • Dallas City Council members were briefed Wednesday on a plan to put robotic delivery vehicles on Dallas streets.
  • Marble, a San Francisco-based company, intends to put about 20 robots on the streets to start to map sidewalks for automated delivery.
  • A formal city council vote on testing robot delivery is expected next week.

Dallas City Council members had good things to say Wednesday about plans to test robotic delivery vehicles on city sidewalks.

A company called Marble, based in San Francisco, intends to put as many as 20 robotic vehicles in Dallas to begin to map sidewalks for automated delivery service.

The vehicles would have a human escort at first before starting to operate independently.

The same company has already begun to map streets in Arlington for a similar robotic delivery trial there.

Another company that uses smaller robots is operating in Washington, D.C.

"So far, the robots have not contacted Skynet. None of them are advocating to kill all humans. So, I think we're pretty safe," said Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston.

On a recent visit to Washington, D.C., councilman Omar Narvaez took cellphone video of the robots he saw there.

"They had to get used to them at first, which is anything that's new, but overall they've had nothing but positive things to say about this," Narvaez said. "I think in D.C., what the vast majority of it was being utilized for what food delivery, getting people's lunch, dinner or what have you."

The robots move down the sidewalk at a maximum speed of 5 miles per hour. To receive their delivery, customers use a special code to unlock the device when it arrives outside. The robots generally travel only a few miles through a neighborhood.

In Dallas, Sal's Pizza on Wycliff Avenue has made popular Italian food for 36 years. Manager Amy Jakova said many loyal customers appreciate home delivery service.

"When people want us to deliver, they want us to bring the food to them. They don't want to come all the way down to pick up food that you hope is still going to be nice and hot," Jakova said.

Delivery driver Jorge Pineda said he gets hot food to customers the old fashioned way, in his car. He said he does it faster than a robot can.

"We have ways to keep it warm. We have efficient ways. But I don't know if a robot is the way to go. Not yet anyways," Pineda said.

The Dallas City Council is expected to take a formal vote next week on the test of robot delivery, which could start later this month. It would likely be in the Downtown and Uptown areas, where businesses and customers are close together. Supporters said it could reduce traditional vehicle traffic on city streets.

A Marble representative said the company is still lining up clients.

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