Cute robots roaming the streets may sound futuristic, but they’re actually already here.
Move Over Wall-E: The Future of Delivery is Kiwibot
Equipped with four wheels, a storage compartment, and a digital smiley face, Kiwibot is on a mission to change delivery as we know it. These semi-autonomous bots can navigate through private campuses and even venture onto public roads to deliver food and groceries door-to-door. But not only can these little robots drastically reduce the cost of delivery, but they also vastly reduce the carbon emission required for delivery. These are all reasons why Kiwibot caught our eye, and we invested in their seed round back in 2019. With the ongoing pandemic and heightened concern about food safety, the demand for Kiwibot and similar human-free robotic delivery systems have been significantly increasing.
In November of 2020, Kiwibot announced their partnership with Sodexo, the multinational food services and facilities management company, to roll out their delivery robots at more than 50 university campuses across the US. Sodexo currently operates out of 80 countries, providing food services for over 400 US college campuses, and even Disneyland in California.
(Image Courtesy of Kiwibot)
Founded in 2016 with the mission to bring down the high cost of delivery, the cute little delivery disruptors started by delivering burritos on the UC Berkeley campus. After partnering with Shopify and Ordermark, they later expanded to downtown San Jose, California in mid-2020. Utilizing a B2B API built in-house, any business on the Shopify platform and any restaurant using Ordermark’s online ordering tool could deliver their products using Kiwibots. Kiwibot now operates out of four US cities and counting: San Jose, Santa Monica, Los Angeles and Miami.
Other Asian Companies in the Semi-Autonomous Sphere
The delivery bot industry is a huge playground, and Kiwibot is not the only one utilizing semi-autonomous technology to reduce their carbon footprint and also reduce delivery prices.
Major players in Japan
From December 2020, Panasonic has been testing its delivery robots on the public roads of Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, a six-year-old smart-city initiative led by Panasonic. In March 2021, Panasonic officially started its delivery service in Fujisawa using two of its robots. Separately, Panasonic also ran separate one-month programs in April 2021 with e-commerce giant Rakuten and supermarket chain SEIYU.
With an estimated valuation of USD $470 million, a famously failed IPO, and giving the world its first driverless taxi service back in 2018, ZMP has always been in the spotlight. In September 2020, ZMP’s robot “DeliRo” completed the first test drive of an autonomous delivery robot on public roads in Japan, partnering with gas station giant ENEOS. Later that year, ZMP also did a test run with Japan Post.
Other interesting trial programs in Japan
Tier IV tested its robot on public roads in December 2020, partnering with Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsubishi Estate, and Tokyo Marine Insurance; QBIT has tested its delivery robot “Relay” with real estate developer Mori Trust inside buildings in June 2021.
Major players in China
Internet giants like Alibaba, JD, and Meituan and independent startups such as Neolix (which utilizes Baidu’s technology), Pony.ai, and WeRide are neck-to-neck in the race for semi-autonomous delivery in the China. After multiple test drives in 2020, Neolix, JD, and Meituan obtained licenses from the Beijing government to offer delivery services with robots in May 2021, becoming the first licenses issued by the government in China.
Other players in China
Hong Kong based RICE Robotics has partnered with Japan Post to test its delivery robots inside buildings since February 2021, and partnered with 7-Eleven and Softbank for similar tests since April 2021. In December 2020, Japan’s largest door-to-door delivery service provider Kuroneko Yamato invested in China-based Yours and announced plans to adopt Yours’ delivery robots in Japan.
Other players in Asia
The operator of South Korea’s largest food delivery app Woowa Brothers launched its delivery robots “Baemin” in August 2020, and announced partnership with Hyundai to test delivery services on public roads. GRAB announced in May 2021 to partner with Techmetics Robotics to provide the first indoor delivery service by robots in Singapore. In June 2021, Foodpanda partnered with Nanyang Technological University’s Whizz Mobility, Singapore based OTSAW, and China based Neolix to test driverless deliveries in Singapore in June 2021.
Kiwibot’s Competitive Advantage
After rolling out at UC Berkeley and other US campuses, Kiwibot is venturing into the overseas market. In December 2019, they did a successful pilot run with Shih Hsin University in Taipei, Taiwan, making it the only delivery robot in Asia that has actually completed over 100,000 deliveries in company history. The project helped Kiwibot’s team understands how to optimize Kiwi’s settings in a humid and hilly terrain.
Kiwibot’s exceptionalism lies in their operational know-how. Not only do they have great traction, but they also have the capability to handle high-volume B2C business and B2B’s accuracy. Additionally, Kiwibot is highly cost-efficient. Each robot costs less than USD $5000, which is more than 50 percent less than its closest peers, thus offering a superior payback period to its B2B clients.
The future is here, and there’s no telling just to how far these little bots will go.
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