Refraction AI, a company developing semi-autonomous delivery robots, today announced it will begin handling select customers’ orders from Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Produce Station. This marks the startup’s first foray into grocery delivery after the launch of its restaurant delivery service. The move comes as Refraction reports a 3-4 times uptick in pandemic-related demand.
The worsening COVID-19 health crisis in much of the U.S. seems likely to hasten the adoption of self-guided robots and drones for goods transportation. They require disinfection, which companies like KiwiBot, Starship Technologies, and Postmates are conducting manually with sanitation teams. But in some cases, delivery rovers like Refraction’s could minimize the risk of spreading disease.
Refraction says from today customers within a three-mile radius of Produce Station can have orders delivered by its REV-1 robot. After customers order through a dedicated website, Refraction’s employees load the vehicles at the store, and recipients receive text message updates, along with a code to open the robot’s storage compartment when it arrives.