The evolution of technology in Texas has begun as a team of robots are now zooming around the streets of Arlington.
Eventually the driverless delivery robots could crisscross the streets delivering everything from groceries and lunch to packages and documents.
The first two test robots from San Francisco-based Marble launched on Friday to start mapping out city streets and sidewalks of Arlington.
“This is our first step in interacting with the city of Arlington and we are very excited to be here,” Marble representative Jackie Erickson said.
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“It’s important for us to know the routes and we have to map the routes to be able to detect any construction or any obstacles that we find in our way,” Jackie Erickson said. “[This is] to ensure when we are doing our deliveries that we know our routes that can be most efficient for those delivery purposes.”
In June, City Council gave approval for private companies to deploy robotic delivery devices to test their usage in the city and Marble was the first to make the move.
The company pays all costs of testing; with no financial obligation for the city or taxpayers.
“We are seeing a lot more trucks and a lot more cars on the road and we feel Marble is providing a much more efficient and environmentally friendly alternative,” Erickson said. “We are getting congestion off the streets. We are using an electric vehicle so it is not diesel.”
For the next few weeks, the two robots along with their human “ambassadors” will traverse the city getting a good layout of the land.
“They are watching the mapping process and they are ensuring that [the robots] are safe and they are efficient and they are interacting well with pedestrians and politely with pedestrians,” Erickson said.
After the mapping process is complete, a pilot delivery program will start. For the first few months the human will still accompany the robots to monitor their behavior. Then, the robots can be fully autonomous with only a human watching movement from a remote computer.
“It would look like, grocery delivery, package delivery throughout the day – working with our retailers,” Erickson said. “You’ll be seeing these robots on the sidewalks navigating alongside pedestrians.”
The robots can hold up to four bags of groceries, six shoe boxes and 10 hot meals.
The robots will deliver locations up to about two miles away and customers will have a special code to enter into the robot to retrieve their items.
No particular routes have been chosen, but the data gathered during the mapping process will help decide where all the robots will go.
“We’ve got a lot of great residents, apartments and neighborhood in North Arlington and that is probably where they will be focused on,” said Arlington Strategic Planning Manager Lyndsay Mitchell.
Mitchell said the city is excited to be a leader in the state for testing this type of technology because it could greatly help citizens.
“Particularly for people who have transportation challenges or mobility challenges,” Mitchell said. “They will be able to get groceries and other items delivered to them so they won’t have to make those short trips that may be inconvenient for them at any time.”
While the mapping continues residents are encouraged to approach the human ambassadors to ask any questions about the robots.
“We want them to stop and say hi," Erickson said. "We want them to interact and ask questions."