Under the hood of Ohio's first pizza-delivery robot

Thanks to a new Ohio law passed this summer, a black-and-white, cooler-shaped robot may soon deliver pizzas to Ohio State University dorms. The pilot program—set to launch in the next year or two—will feature 6D32, a device created by Starship Technologies that can carry and deliver up to 20 pounds of food, groceries and packages to customers within one- to two-mile radiuses of special hubs in grocery stores, warehouses or wherever there is enough space to store the robot. Here's the scoop on the delivery robot making its way to Ohio, the fifth state in the U.S. to allow robotic delivery vehicles on sidewalks.


Only traveling at 4 mph, the robots can quickly come to a stop, get out of the way of traffic or pedestrians and easily go up and down curbs. “The GPS that we have on our [mobile phones has] about 20 meters of accuracy, but we needed better tracking for our robots operating on sidewalks so they don't cause any collisions,” says Henry Harris-Burland, vice president of marketing at Starship. The robots have traveled 40,000 miles around the world and haven't caused any accidents yet.

99 Percent Autonomous:

Starship officials take pride in their robots being about 99 percent autonomous. Their delivery devices, however, will never be completely automated, says Harris-Burland. At any moment, 6D32 can call on remote drivers on computers located anywhere in the world to immediately help the robot overcome obstacles and cross difficult streets based on information picked up by its sensors. “There will always be an element of human control,” says Harris-Burland.

A Special Delivery:

After ordering food or other goods online, you will be notified that a robot is on its way. (You can even live-track it making its way to your location with apps on your mobile device.) Then you will receive a text message letting you know that your robot has arrived, along with a link to unlock its insulated body. “You don't even have to be tech savvy for these robots. You basically work them through text message, which is familiar for most people,” says Harris-Burland. After you retrieve your purchases, the robot will immediately head back to its “home” in shops or special hubs.

Safety & Security:

6D32 features precise GPS tracking, computer vision and nine cameras that record and take pictures, so it can easily be found if lost or stolen. Two-way audio allows for the robot to interact with those around it. The robot also blares alarms if someone tampers with it, and it's difficult to unlock without a customer link.

Human Acceptance:

So far, 6D32 has met more than 7 million people in 17 countries around the world. Much to their surprise, Starship officials have found that most people pay little to no attention to the robot passing them on the sidewalk. “The acceptance of the robot is great,” says Harris-Burland. “People have called it cute, and some have even tried to pet it like an animal.”