Meals are increasingly being delivered by robots in Canada
One of Pizza Hut's delivery robots in Vancouver.
More and more meals are being delivered by robots in Canada, but this market is still facing significant obstacles.
For example, the Pizza Hut chain uses robots from the company Serve Robotics for its deliveries in certain areas of Vancouver. In Toronto, pink robots named Geoffrey were delivering meals for the firm Tiny Mile, but city officials banned them last year.
The goal of these robots is to reduce traffic, encourage local commerce, and help restaurants deliver meals to their customers at a lower cost.
For Serve Robotics, a subsidiary of U.S. delivery company Postmates, the logic is simple: given restaurants' low profit margins, labor shortages and concerns about climate change, why deliver? a two-pound burrito with a two-ton vehicle?
But the appearance of these robots is not making everyone happy.
Several major cities have banned their use. According to them, robots represent a danger for people with poor vision or poor mobility, for the elderly and for children. Cyclists are already raging against e-scooters on bike lanes and don't want to see robots there either.
“Robots attract a lot of attention from pedestrians when they are walking on sidewalks because they are not not seen so often. People are thrilled to see them. But if their employment continues to grow, it could cause traffic jams on the already tight sidewalks.
—Prabhjot Gill, associate partner at McKinsey & Co.
Others are worried about overseas-controlled robots replacing delivery people here.
According to the CEO of Serve Robotics in Vancouver, Ali Kashani, criticism is part of the natural cycle of innovation. For example, when the bicycle was invented, many feared it would lead to a rise in divorces, he says.
Mr. Kashani defends his robots by pointing out that they alert people to their presence by making a sound and flashing lights. They are equipped with intelligence, a guidance system and emergency brakes allowing them to avoid collisions.
He judges that the use of robots will eventually benefit everyone.
And the environment will come out a winner. Mr. Kashani estimates that half of the deliveries only cover a distance of less than 2.5 km. And 90% of them are by automobile. About 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to people using their cars to run errands in their neighborhood.
There are many reasons to quickly replace cars " ;delivery" by these robots. However, we have no reason to make everyone our enemy, concedes Mr. Kashani.
Well aware that new ideas often face opposition, Serve Robotics is cautious in its discussions with authorities and governments before launching its service in a city. There is no law prohibiting or allowing robots.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance President David Lepofsky does not believe that robots can coexist with humans. They can cause accidents. Worse still, they can be used to transport contraband or weapons.
Mr. Lepofsky insists that his opposition to robots does not mean that he is against innovation. He just wants to make sure the streets remain safe for everyone.
“It's not like we deprived people of a service. There is a way to deliver pizzas since we deliver pizzas: we call it a human. »
— David Lepofsky, Chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
Pizza Hut Canada executive Manish Dhankhler concedes pizza delivery isn't worth the risk the safety of a person. However, he reports that the chain only partnered with Serve Robotics when their robots made several thousand deliveries without harming anyone on the mainland.
However, the channel is not yet ready to use bots on a permanent basis.
“We want to learn more . What would happen if they were used in the snowy areas of Saskatchewan? How would robots react in the ice?
— Manish Dhankhler, Senior Manager of Pizza Hut Canada
As for the Geoffrey robot, it was also observed in Ottawa, but there too the municipal authorities refused to report. x27;allow its use. Tiny Miles had to leave Canada.
We were almost bankrupt, agrees Ignacio Tartavull, the company's CEO. It's a miracle we survived!
Tiny Miles has moved operations to Florida and North Carolina.
It was love at first sight! exclaims Mr. Tartavull. We have talked to municipal governments and they are competing for us.