Woowa's outdoor food delivery robots put into real service in apartment complex

By Lim Chang-won Posted : August 19, 2020, 11:06 Updated : August 19, 2020, 11:06

[Courtesy of Woowa Brothers]

SEOUL -- After a successful test operation at a university campus, outdoor food delivery robots installed with a remote video control system were put into real life at an apartment complex, opening a new era in South Korea's food and grocery delivery service market.

Woowa Brothers, the operator of the country's top food delivery service app Baedal Minjok, has developed an upgraded version of six-wheeled outdoor delivery robots that were tested at Seoul's Konkuk University in November 2019. Five new robots have been deployed for a pilot service at a residential and commercial complex in Suwon south of Seoul.

Woowa will operate them from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. throughout August before increasing the hours of operation. As yet, outdoor robots make autonomous driving from restaurants to the entrance of apartments, but Woowa said it would achieve improvements in technique to deliver food to the front door of each household in the first half of next year.

When residents and visitors order menus using a delivery app, robots waiting at a station deliver food or drinks from restaurants and cafes. They can also make an order with QR codes attached to designated outdoor tables. Customers can check the current location of robots in real time through the app and receive text messages about 100 meters before or after arrival at designated spots.

The new robot can run at a speed of up to five km per hour, deliver six lunch boxes or 12 drinks at a time and is available for more than eight hours on a single charge. It is equipped with lights for evening services.

Various measures have been drawn up for safe driving, Woowa said, adding its robots were designed to check the moving route of residents and road conditions while running at low speeds in places frequented by people. They stop at the crosswalk and can be monitored through a video control system.

Woowa has pushed for the commercialization of delivery service robots. Dilly, a lineup of autonomous delivery robots, has been tested at restaurants. The final goal is to produce robots capable of roaming freely through the crowded urban streets. However, development has been slow because they are not useful in real life in a country where many city dwellers live in high-rise apartment buildings.

For full commercialization, Woowa said outdoor delivery robots should overcome various technical barriers, react sensitively to the movements of automobiles, bicycles, children and pet dogs, or consider ever-changing weather circumstances and road surfaces.

"Outdoor robot delivery services can be commercialized only when precise technology and service know-how are combined, as there are overwhelmingly more factors hindering the normal operation of robots such as road surfaces, obstacles, weather, and unexpected situations than indoors," said Kim Yo-seob, a Woowa official in charge of robotics development.
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