In one major city, there are now more than just pedestrians and pets waiting for the light to change at a busy crosswalk. Throughout San Francisco’s Mission and Potrero Districts, robots are sharing the streets with people thanks to Yelp Eat24 and Marble.
The robots, which the company says are smart enough to travel and navigate traffic in a “reliable, efficient, and safe fashion,” are delivering food to consumers across the region. Participating local restaurants are supporting the on-demand delivery with Marble's autonomous robots. Guests can order through the Yelp Eat24 App and opt-in for the robot delivery. The restaurants place the meals into an adaptable cargo bay and set the robot to go.
“At Marble, our vision is to create helpful robots that improve urban neighborhood living for everyone,” says Matt Delaney, CEO and co-founder of Marble, in a statement. “We’re creating a more efficient, reliable, and affordable way for people to receive what they need and want from their cities while reducing urban congestion and carbon footprint. Our system bolsters local commerce and unlocks the full potential of the on-demand economy allowing it to be something that everyone can benefit from.”
Marble received $4 million in seed funding led by Eclipse as well as Maven Ventures, Amplify Partners, and Lemnos Labs. This financial boost will go toward the expansion of Marble’s robot fleet, which hopes to expand throughout San Francisco and beyond.
The robots use technology similar to self-driving cars. Each robot contains a suite of sensors, including lidar, cameras, and ultrasonic that allows them to perceive the surrounding world. And over time, as the robots continue to map out the city, transportation routes and delivery times will be optimized. Marble says it expects the majority of the city’s sidewalks to be mapped in the coming year.
“We are always looking for innovative new ways to give diners what they want: efficient and affordable food delivery,” says Shalin Sheth, head of delivery operations at Yelp Eat24. “Marble’s robots help Yelp Eat24 restaurants better serve their communities and we’re excited to enhance the delivery experience for customers and be able to serve a larger market.”
The release also gives Marble’s backstory: Before creating Marble, co-founders Matt Delaney, Jason Calaiaro, and Kevin Peterson met at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute where they worked on the original self-driving cars during the DARPA Grand and Urban Challenges. They also developed autonomous space robots and lunar landers for notable competitions including the Google Lunar XPrize and NASA Regolith Excavation Challenge. Together with their collective backgrounds, they reunited in 2015 to engineer the intelligent delivery robots that are now the face of Marble.
“With the rapid growth of the on-demand and e-commerce markets, solving the last mile delivery problem is incredibly important,” says Greg Reichow, general partner at Eclipse. “The existing solution of using 3,000-pound fossil fuel burning, city-congesting cars does not scale. We invested in Marble because of their groundbreaking technology and exceptional team. With experience in autonomous vehicles, robotics, and aerospace-grade navigation and sensor technology, Marble is uniquely positioned to tackle this challenge.”