by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Uber may be looking to replace some human drivers with robots after facing court battles from workers seeking pay raises.
The ride-hailing giant is employing self-driving robots to deliver food items for its UberEats from select merchants in Miami, Florida, and is set to expand into more cities next year.
The sidewalk-traveling, six-wheeled robots are from Cartken, which former Google engineers founded, and feature a trunk capable of carrying up to 24 pounds of cargo.
The partnership, announced Thursday, comes two days after a Manhattan judge granted Uber’s bid to temporarily block a pay hike for ride-share drivers from going into effect next week.
The pay raise would have increased by 23.93 percent per mile. Uber is said to take about 25 percent commission from drivers.
Regardless, robotic rides appear to be the way of the future, as many companies are looking to use robotaxis and delivery bots.
Uber has been trialing robots since May, first unleashing technologies made by Serve Robotics, in Los Angeles, San Diego and Dubai.
Now the ride-hailing giant has teamed up with Cartken, which used its robots on the campus of Ohio State University in June.
Cartken’s robots navigate pavements, crosswalks and pedestrian paths within the campus area without human guidance.
The robots use Cartken’s artificial intelligence (AI) and camera-based navigation and mapping technology, which the company developed for small autonomous vehicles to operate safely around pedestrians.
Human override remains an option if necessary – for instance, when a path is blocked – guaranteeing reliable operation and minimizing delivery delays.
Cartken’s robots operate up to three miles per hour and handle various weather conditions, including rain and snow.
The delivery robots will first transport items in the Dadeland area of Miami-Dade County and then expand to other cities in 2023.