Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Postmates unveils autonomous delivery robot

Steve Rogerson
January 8, 2019

California-based on-demand delivery company Postmates has unveiled Serve, an internally developed autonomous delivery rover.
The Serve team spent the past couple of years analysing millions of deliveries, researching interactions and conducting thousands of deliveries to develop the first autonomous vehicle created from the ground up by an on-demand delivery company.
"We realised we are in a unique position to create an autonomous delivery vehicle with socially aware navigation that understands how to navigate cities while meeting specific customer needs," said Bastian Lehmann, CEO of Postmates. "We took a design-first approach with Serve that walks alongside people and fits into our communities. We were able to use data to model how food and goods could move around cities even more efficiently when rovers join our existing fleet of more than 350,000 Postmates. Ultimately, we believe that goods should move through cities at nearly zero cost to consumers."
With an intentional focus on design and technology, Serve is said to be a delightful addition to the pavement, creating excitement for how people can receive their next order from Postmates.
"One thing we learned early on is that we need to develop a language for rovers and humans to understand each other's intentions," said Lehmann. "We have developed a specific rover-human interface so that people understand what rovers are doing at any moment."
Serve's socially aware navigation is said to bring together design and technology in an entirely new way for pavement rovers. Sensors include Velodyne lidar and it uses a Nvidia Xavier processor.
Serve can carry 23kg and go 50km on a single charge. Users interact with Serve using a touchscreen and cameras. To communicate, Serve has dynamic lighting in the eyes and a light ring on top to signal movement such as a change in direction.
The initial plan is to deploy Serve in the Los Angeles area and Postmates will work with local governments to develop a framework that can enable on-demand commerce while respecting the public right of way. The full roll-out of Serve will take place over the next 12 months in key cities across the USA.
Launched in 2011, Postmates pioneered the on-demand delivery movement in the USA by offering delivery from restaurants and stores previously only available offline. The company now operates in 550 US cities, as well as Mexico, and provides access to over 200,000 merchants. Postmates is headquartered in San Francisco and has more than 700 employees.