The rise in food delivery services has now begat the rise of the machines.
On Wednesday, Chicago's City Council approved a pilot program that will allow restaurants and grocery stores to make deliveries via "personal delivery devices (PDDs)," aka, robots.
Similar programs have rolled out in cities such as Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., as well as college campuses, including the University of Illinois-Chicago.
The two-year pilot program will operate under the city's Emerging Business Permit, which supports concepts that don't fall under existing business license categories. The pilot will be managed jointly by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and the Chicago Department of Transportation.
The robot delivery services are app-based. Under the terms of the temporary permit, vendors will be given the opportunity to partner with food establishments to make deliveries within a small radius of the restaurants and grocery stores, officials said.
During the pilot period, the city will assess the robots' use of sidewalks and crosswalks, and whether they can be deployed safely and effectively without inconveniencing pedestrians.
According to UIC, which partnered with Starship delivery robots, the devices use GPS and computer vision to reach their destinations, and come equipped with cameras, sensors, radar and other "obstacle detection" technology to avoid collisions.