Tiny Mile, Big Robot Delivery Ambitions
The company's li'l pink robots are already scurrying about Toronto
The first thing you notice about Tiny Mile’s delivery robots is their fun pastel pink color. In addition to being Tiny Mile CEO Ignacio Tartavull’s favorite color, there is a deeper reason for the pink tone. “My background was in neuroscience,” Tartavull told me, “The least threatening thing for a human is anything that resembles a baby.”
Just like an infant, Tiny Mile has been taking its first steps over the past year into the world of robot-powered food delivery. Based in Toronto, Canada, Tiny Mile launched its first robots in that city in Spring of last year. The small, four-wheeled rovers travel at walking speed, can carry six kilos (~13 lbs), and are semi-autonomous — so humans plot a course for the robot drive itself.
As Tartavull explained to me via video chat this week, his big vision for Tiny Mile is to enable robot delivery for any small business in dense urban areas. Instead of building an online marketplace, Tiny Mile works directly with half a dozen companies right now, including a boba tea shop and some Chinese restaurants. Tiny Mile’s API plugs right into a restaurant’s online ordering system, offering up robot delivery as an option at checkout. When an order is placed, a Tiny Mile robot ships out from a central facility to the restaurant to pick up the order before taking it to the consumer.
Tiny Mile charges a flat $4 CAD (~$3.15 USD) per order to the restaurant, which the restaurant can pass on however it likes to its customer. Tartavull says this is a third of the roughly $12 restaurants currently pay per human courier delivery.
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Of the players in the robot delivery space, Tiny Mile is most like Kiwibot, which also operates a fleet of rover robots on city streets (as opposed to Starship, which mainly operates on college campuses here in the U.S.). Kiwibot, which has been making deliveries in the Santa Monica neighborhood of Los Angeles as well as the city of San Jose, California, recently announced expansions into Miami-Dade County, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. Kiwibot charges $3.99 per delivery, so basically the same as Tiny Mile.
Given that Tiny Mile is operating in Toronto, I asked Tartavull about how his robots fare in the inclement weather of the Great White North. “We have done a lot of work done on making [the robot] run in snow,” he said, “We have a little ice rink inside the office to make sure it works.”
In addition to running smoothly in bad weather, Tartavull said that it’s been smooth operating with the City of Toronto. Local officials there have encouraged Tiny Mile in part, according to Tartavull, because the company’s delivery robots could help save restaurants money which in turn keeps restaurants afloat and saves restaurant jobs.
Though the company has only raised an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding, Tiny Mile already has ambitious goals. Tartavull said Tiny Mile will have 22 robots in operation by the end of the year, and 200 robots in 18 months.
In other words, citizens of Toronto will be seeing plenty of pink robots on city sidewalks over the next year.