Automobile

AV startup Refraction AI’s driverless robots to deliver pizza in Texas

Pizza lovers in certain areas of Austin, Texas, can now have their pies delivered via robot.

The REV-1 robot is the product of Refraction AI, an Ann Arbor, Mich., autonomous vehicle startup. The company is expanding its reach, with its three-wheeled self-driving robots set to launch in Austin’s South Congress, Downtown and Travis Heights neighborhoods.

Refraction AI says it will first partner with Southside Flying Pizza, which has multiple locations in Austin. The REV-1 first launched in Ann Arbor, where its creators, Matthew Johnson-Roberson and Ram Vasudevan, are University of Michigan professors.

“Our expansion into Austin marks another step in our vision to transform last-mile delivery into a ubiquitous, accessible, sustainable service that anyone can take part in,” Refraction AI CEO Luke Schneider said in a release, adding that he believes current solutions for on-demand delivery “are broken,” with businesses and households having a hard time keeping up with rising fees while “profitability remains elusive for even the biggest players.”

Customers who order from participating restaurants can opt to have their food dropped off by an REV-1. Refraction AI is touting entirely contactless delivery: After placing an order, the customer receives text message updates on the delivery’s status. The customer is notified when the REV-1 arrives at the curb and then unlocks the robot with a four-digit code received via another text.

The REV-1 is roughly the size of a human on a bicycle. It can reach a speed of 15 mph and has capacity for 16 cubic feet, or about six grocery bags, according to Refraction AI.

The robots primarily travel in bike lanes or on the sides of roads. But Refraction AI says they can scoot through traffic lanes and traverse sidewalks “as needed.”

“We believe that greater access to robotic last-mile delivery will lead to a greener future with safer, less-congested streets, and we’re excited to leverage the technology as we continue to prioritize both sustainability and equity,” Gina Fiandaca, Austin’s assistant city manager for mobility, said in the release.

Refraction AI says the expansion into Austin comes after the company took in $4.2 million in seed funding in March.


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