Self-driving robots may be hitting San Francisco streets in near future

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Long before self-driving cars and delivery drones blanket the Bay Area, there's another kind of robot that could become common on our streets.

Julie O'Keefe has lived at her San Francisco home for 67 years, but never has she seen anything like a robot crawling its way up the sidewalk to pay her a visit. "I got a delivery from a little rolling cooler it looks like," O'Keefe said.

Henry Harris-Burland is the marketing guy. As for that rolling cooler? "This is a Starship delivery robot. It's the world's first autonomous delivery robot," he said.

Already operating in Europe, Starship Technologies plans to launch in the Bay Area in the next few months.

"There's a whole raft of people who are boomers, who are going to start retiring," Starship Technologies advisor Brad Templeton said.

At $1 to $3 per delivery, it could help folks like O'Keefe stay in their homes. Even if they're having trouble getting around.

But beyond helping a generation that's getting older, robotic delivery could also be a big help to the next generation of autonomous robots.

Carrying cargo, not people and only at four miles an hour, it's a safe way to test the technologies destined for cars and drones.

If they get stuck, they can stop and call humans for help, but the goal is 99 percent autonomy. "That would be one human operator looking after 100 robots. And that's our plan in the future," Harris-Burland said.

Robots will live in the neighborhood and deliver in a two mile radius when called from your smartphone.

They're friendly, but don't try picking them up.
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