Uber launches delivery robots in Japan

A new army of robots is coming… but don’t worry, they’re not trying to take over the world. They’re just here to deliver your McDonald’s. 

What happened: Starting next month, some Tokyo residents will have their Uber Eats orders delivered by an adorable autonomous robot. Japan is already known as the home to many restaurant robot servers, but it’s the first international market to adopt robot delivery on Uber. 

  • These small robots travel alongside pedestrians, stop at traffic lights, and include temperature-controlled cargo space that ensures your meal doesn’t show up cold.

  • Uber Eats is also working with the Nvidia-backed startup, Serve Robotics, to deploy up to 2,000 robots across multiple U.S. markets.

Why Uber is dabbling in the robot business…  

  • According to Serve Robotics, the mass adoption of delivery robots can boost local businesses by offering a cheaper way for restaurants to get their food to customers.

  • Robots could also cut down on car emissions. In Canada, about half of food deliveries are under 4 kilometres, 90% of which are unnecessarily completed using a vehicle.

  • Arguably the most important benefit is that robots can’t sneak a bite of your food, an act that nearly 30% of delivery drivers in the U.S. (shockingly) admit to doing. 

Yes, but: Robots can take needed income away from delivery drivers, who can struggle to make a living as-is. They can also pose a hazard to pedestrians and cyclists — a problem that has gotten them banned in some Canadian cities, including Toronto and Ottawa. 

Zoom out: Tensions are rising between platforms and drivers, with food couriers in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. recently staging a strike on Valentine's Day — one of the busiest delivery days of the year — to protest against low pay and poor working conditions.—LA