Food-delivery robots get rolling in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- When restaurants closed last year, third-party delivery services became a significant part of life. But as we begin to emerge from life in a pandemic, there are businesses betting the consumer will continue to pay for the comfort of staying home.

"We believe in the 21st century deliveries are no longer a luxury, but actually a necessity," said Diego Varela Prada, chief operating officer of Kiwibot.

Kiwibot has made over 150,000 deliveries via robot since 2017. Recently partnering with the mobile app MealMe in Santa Monica, the company's focus for now is food delivery without the wait of traditional delivery services, and with a 50% reduction in services charges.

"Robots cannot be fully autonomous because of legal reasons, so the robot actually recognizes people and objects and can go from corner to corner on a sidewalk, so to insure safety, we actually have supervisors remotely monitoring street passes," Varela Prada said.

Users place their order through the MealMe app. The robot then picks up the shipment and delivers, alerting you when the order arrives and providing a code to unlock the storage area.

"It's a really seamless process, quick delivery, ecofriendly delivery, cheap delivery," said Matthew Bouchner, president of MealMe.

"There's no waiting for 10 to 15 minutes sometimes when a driver is bogged down to get to this location and then they back stack and have three deliveries," said Chris Newcomer of Blue Plate Taco restaurant.

Blue Plate Taco is one of the first Santa Monica restaurants to use the Kiwibots for delivery within a two-mile radius of the restaurant, but Kiwibot wants to eventually expand robot service across the country to college campuses, malls, office parks or amusement parks where food could be delivered while you wait in line.

"We're living in the future. So, whether it's something that's going to be driving down the street, whether it's going to be a drone that might be delivering your burrito to the beach, you never know which way things are going to go," Newcomer said. "So, it's important for us to stay at least in pace, if not ahead of what the technological curve is going to be."

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