Residents and shoppers strolling through Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood on Wednesday afternoon might have encountered tiny pink robots with heart-shaped eyes traversing the streets and even following them down the sidewalk.
“They’re friendly until they’re not,” an Observer reporter heard.
There was no need to be alarmed. It was just a demonstration for a potential partner, according to Ignacio Tartavull, founder of the Toronto startup small thousand.
The pink robots, named Geoffrey, pick up and deliver food through online services such as DoorDash and Uber Eats, according to the Tiny Mile website.
The robots walked Central Avenue for a few minutes, but Tiny Mile is not operating in Charlotte “at this time,” Tartavull said in a tweet.
Tiny Mile is evaluating whether to move its headquarters to Charlotte, but no decision has been made yet, Tartavull told the Observer. The company currently operates in downtown Toronto.
The company uses a pay-as-you-go pricing structure that charges $1 per kilometer (about 0.62 miles), according to the company’s website. Each delivery is also insured.
Tiny Mile claims that its robots will make food deliveries in 15 minutes and that its services are 10 times cheaper for restaurants because there is no driver commission to pay. Restaurants save between 5% and 15% on these fees, Omar Elawi, Tiny Mile account manager of partnerships, told NOW Magazine in May 2021.
“For the first time, Uber is becoming much more affordable for them,” Elawi said.
The Geoffreys are not independent. They’re remote-controlled by people working from home on laptops and Xbox controllers, Elawi said. The robots have built-in GPS and cameras that give operators a 360-degree field of view for navigation, he said.
“Creating these new avenues actually creates new jobs,” Elawi said. “You have to hire pilots, technicians, dispatchers, maintainers, engineers. That’s multiple jobs created compared to a single courier. »
Robots are not yet used in the United States. They have been used in Toronto since the Tiny Mile began in November 2019, according to Tartavull’s LinkedIn account.
Prior to launching Tiny Mile, Tartavull worked as a freelance engineer for Uber in 2018 and most of 2019.
“Robots delivering ice cream, snacks and more,” says the Tiny Mile website.
Observation Team writer Gordon Rago contributed to this story.
This story was originally published March 2, 2022 5:03 p.m.