Lublin firm gives new meaning to meals on wheels with Poland’s first robot food couriers
A start-up from Lublin is giving a new meaning to the idea of meals-on-wheels with the introduction of a robot food courier.
Resembling medium-sized cooling boxes on wheels, the robots which deliver restaurant orders to customer are aimed at solving the problem of courier shortages at peak order times.
Founded by Sergiusz Lebedyn and Stanislav Lesiuk, DeliveryCouple’s two mobile robots Mateusz and Kasia are able to travel a maximum of 5km and carry a load of 15kg.
While robot couriers are already used by some companies in the US, this is the first time they have been seen on the streets of Poland.
Lebedyn predicts that the solution will soon be widespread and that every big city in Poland will have at least 10 robot couriers in the next two to three years.
The robot works on the same principles as other food courier companies, however a customer who wants to have their order delivered by robot courier has to select it when making the order on an app, which they can then use to follow the robot’s location.
When it arrives the customer uses the app to open the robot and retrieve their order.
Fitted with cameras and sensors and measures to stop them being broken into, the robots are currently being operated under the eye of a human operator, but in future are intended to be almost entirely autonomous.
They also currently only take one order at a time, with the future plan for them to collect and distribute more than one order on their route.
The idea first came to Lebedyn, a programmer and IT graduate from Lublin, in February 2021 after observing the explosion of demand for food delivery couriers brought by the pandemic.
Teaming up with talented robotics experts Stanislav Lesiuk, Łukasz Nawrocki, Łukasz Lis, Bartosz Wierzchowiak and Szymon Szostak, the first fully operational prototype was constructed in September 2021.
Lebedyn told TFN: “People ask me why Lublin. It’s here I found the best experts to build the type of robot I imagined, including the Runner up of the 2017 World Robotics Championship.
“We are currently in the testing phase and need to check that the software is working properly and find out if people are ready for this type of idea.
“The courier is demand driven, restaurants can chose to offer the robot courier as an option to customers and customers have to chose the option of delivery by robot when placing their order.
“The interest from customers at the moment is mainly curiosity.”
Lebedyn highlights that the robots are not intended to replace human couriers, but act as a supplement to their work by replacing them only at shorter distances, which will free up human couriers for longer distances.
He said: “One advantage is that when the client choses delivery by robot they are constantly informed of its position, so they can know better when their order will arrive.
“It is also cheaper for restaurants to use a robot courier. The time of delivery is also an advantage. The robot will cover the maximum tested distance of 3km in 34-36 minutes, but we are working to get this down to 23-25 minutes. Below 3km it is even quicker.”
The inventor and his team are using current real-world tests to analyse the robot’s strengths and weaknesses and iron out operational issues.
“It’s a big challenge, making the hardware is one thing, but then giving the robot a ‘soul’ through the programming and ensuring the programming and hardware work together in sync is the most difficult thing.
“We are also still perfecting the robot to ensure it functions in all weather conditions and surfaces. The recent tests showed us we need to make a few tweaks for situations when the robot will be passing over cobblestones and experiencing a lot of vibrations, such as in the Lublin Old Town, and when the weather is very cold, but these things can be done.”
The company plan to expand in the new year with an expansion of their fleet to 30-40 robots, 10 of which will operate in Lublin and the rest in other cities, with residents of Kraków and Warsaw likely to be the next to see the robot couriers on their streets in 2022.