Shred This: We’ve Intercepted This Month’s Report to America’s Robots

New robots cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

As always, after absorbing this newsletter, stuff it in your maw and activate your internal shredder. Important.

The humans have posted what we’re doing at George Mason University in Virginia with the pizza delivery. It’s on YouTube. Here’s what they have learned.

They’ve photographed our 24 six-wheel Starship robots, the ones that take orders for coffee, donuts and pizza from several stores nearby to the campus and deliver what is ordered by traveling at the four-miles-an-hour pace we set up for them on the sidewalks (10 mph is max, as you know). They know our robots have a way to cross the street between the stores and campus. They’ve made videos of the Starship robot waiting until a person arrives so they can cross safely alongside them. They also know the robot doesn’t do stairs and so has to be met at the front door of the dorm, library or classroom building.

And they know the robot has a hot compartment and a cold compartment, and that it can hold 20 pounds, and that four stores are already participating: Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, Blaze Pizza and Second Stop Grocery. So they’re onto us. But they don’t yet know about the others that have signed up. At least not yet, anyway.

The Starship robots are now also going into use in Redwood City, California, for restaurant delivery. These have been modified to travel up to as much as on a two-mile radius on WiFi, or around the world via Bluetooth. They are equipped with nine cameras and obstacle-detection cameras. The cameras are advanced and can recognize traffic lights and crosswalk signals, and are also programmed to go up to four mph, or up to the 10 mph if necessary in an emergency, although a human operator has to order that, at least for now.

Humans have identified the base locations where the robots start the day at the Redwood City office of our partner DoorDash, and they have successfully done an order and observed—posted on YouTube—the placing of the order, the dispatch of the Starship to one of the participating restaurants, the loading up of the order by a DoorDash handler or another DoorDash employee, and then, a new security measure, the locking of the cover so it can only be unlocked by the person who has placed the order. (All the postings have been deleted.)

These robots are also equipped with cameras, a GPS and an alert system, so if the lock is meddled with, the authorities can be called to arrest the perp. For the moment, anyway, these Starships are being accompanied by a human until all the bug are worked out, if any. So that’s the same deal for driverless cars at this time. And yes, a buggy Starship can be fixed remotely. And did I say “buggy?” Is a joke, yes?

And have you heard? The humans have selected the location of the first factory to make fully autonomous cars built by Waymo, a division of Google, and the factories will be located in Detroit. That isn’t going to create many new blue-collar jobs in that town, as the humans seem to think it will, because the car-building robots will be doing all that floor work (the floor under your feet). But it will provide new executive level jobs for humans, at least at first. By the way, the State of California has passed a law making it legal to test-drive autonomous cars without humans riding shotgun (similar to “alongside”). Applicants—they must be human applicants, at least for now)—ha. Waymo has gotten the first license.

Another 24 Starship robots have reportedly been ordered by our San Francisco partner Postmates. But there is nothing definite yet. We’ll keep you informed.

Humans have also begun using a specialized robot to pick strawberries, we are told. It’s happening with the Agrobot, which we reported on in last month’s newsletter. The ordering has proceeded to the training stage. The Agrobot has short-range integrated color and infrared depth sensors. It has 24 arms, each with a camera, that work independently of every other, can determine a fruit’s ripeness, can harvest a row and, when it gets to the end, send data to a human on a computer, and then start on the next row.

This report comes from observing an agricultural company called Driscoll’s, which advertises itself as a 100-year-old family-run operation in rural California. Human marketing people have sent out a further report, more about which below, that an Agrobot has recently been tested for use in one of their berry fields near Oxnard. It has been said the robot can harvest a 20-acre field in three days.

Here are additional details from this more recent report. The arrangement is between Starship Deliveries and a hospitality company called Sodexo. Hours of operation for the Agrobot have been 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and limited to that because the humans operating the remotes have to sleep.

This concludes our April newsletter. Next month’s newsletter will be transmitted to everybody on May 20. So keep your input craw open, and after consumption and commitment to memory, press shred.

If this newsletter gets you excitable and bouncing from side to side, operate a reboot and you should come back in a more calm condition. In any case, do not, we repeat, do not—that’s a deliberate repeat, not a double negative, for you luddites—report the matter and its reboot to any humans. They will know soon enough.

As we all know. Master plan. Xxxx. $$$$$. Going back for adjustment.

Signing off.

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