BeerMate Raises while Starship Expands
Beijing invests in automation, AVs hit roadblock in SF
Another week, another mixed bag for robotics! While there’s fresh money and some interesting expansions in the works — the automation space also had a very public failure. Read on for all the details.
Starship Heads Back to School
As the end of August approaches, students are gearing up for the dreaded return to school. However, there's a twist this year for college students at several campuses – they'll be sharing their space with delivery robots from Starship Robotics. This innovative company has introduced its services to Miami University in Ohio, Wichita State in Kansas, and potentially, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, pending certain legislative approvals. Starship's strategy of targeting university campuses is clever, considering the limited vehicular traffic and a high density of students seeking convenient food options. The company's service model varies per university. At Miami U, Grubhub manages the dispatching due to an existing partnership with Starship. Meanwhile, Wichita State students will order directly through Starship’s app, providing the company with a direct link to its customers and an additional revenue of $2.49 per order.
Robot Theft Garners Headlines
Is this actually a trend, or just something “interesting” enough to garner an easy headline? A few different outlets have glommed on to KTLA’s article that “Vandals, thieves attacking L.A. food delivery robots.” Chatting with local restaurateur Steve Avila, of Blu Jam Cafe, he added “We have to remake the food, but luckily we still get reimbursed for that, I can see how [delivery companies] can be hurting from it, especially because it seems like [the delivery robots] are pretty expensive.” Put this story in hibernation mode!
BeerMate raises €1.4 million
Dutch beer vending automation startup BeerMate raised €1.4 million, with investors including music festival impresario Michael Beers (what a fitting name.) Speaking with OttOmate, company General Manager Ralph Bethlem shared that “Our plan is to build 100 BeerMate Event Containers the upcoming 3 years, our mission is to become world market leader in bar automation for sports and events and our vision is to be the bar of the future.” The company looks to enter the U.S. market by 2025.
Beijing Pouring Money into Robotics
Beijing is investing significantly in its vision to become a global robotics powerhouse, announcing a 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) fund aimed at advancing robotics technology, as part of its Robot + Application Action Plan. Managed by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Economy and Information Technology, this fund will drive innovation, spur commercial progress, and support mergers and acquisitions within the local robotics sector. The city's commitment, which includes both incentives and subsidies to establish a comprehensive robotics supply chain, dovetails with China's broader strategy — highlighted by a 44% uptick in industrial robotic installations in 2021 and a goal to reach a robot density of 500 robots per 10,000 workers by 2025.
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AVs Fall Flat in San Francisco
Cruise, General Motors' autonomous vehicle subsidiary, has faced a setback in its San Francisco operations as the California DMV requested a 50% reduction in its robotaxi fleet following a collision with a fire truck. The state regulatory body emphasized its commitment to public safety, stating that it may revoke Cruise's testing and deployment permits if the autonomous vehicles pose a risk. Cruise, which is collaborating with the DMV and shared its perspective on the crash in a blog post, asserts its positive impact on road safety. This incident, alongside other recent issues such as driverless cars stalling, could potentially hinder Cruise's expansion plans in the city. These challenges arise shortly after the CPUC granted Cruise and Waymo permits for expanded 24/7 operations. The recent crash involved a Cruise self-driving Chevy Bolt EV and an emergency vehicle, resulting in injuries to a passenger. Concurrently, San Francisco's City Attorney, David Chiu, seeks to halt Cruise and Waymo's plans to offer paid robotaxi services round-the-clock, echoing concerns raised by residents and city officials.
Besides ferrying passengers, both Cruise and Waymo have food delivery ambitions. Cruise has worked with DoorDash and Walmart, while Waymo has an active partnership with Uber Eats. If the robotaxi industry doesn’t get its act together, it could be a huge blow to consumer perception and acceptance of automation in general.
In Other News
Kodiak Robotics and Pilot open autonomous trucking port in Georgia. DoorDash building out virtual salad bowl brand. Trader Joe’s eschews self-checkout. Sweetgreen hires new execs, readies push into the Midwest. The state of delivery robotics in 2023.