In mid-October, the Dallas City Council approved a pilot project for sidewalk-roaming delivery robots. They bring goods from business to buyer—things like a sandwich or a package or prescription drugs. The carts are the size of—well, you see it up there in the photo, something like a shopping cart.
When the six-month project was approved on October 18, Transportation Director Michael Rogers said that the goal was for San Francisco-based delivery robot company Marble to begin mapping by November 1.
It’s about a month later than that now, and we don’t have so much as a tweeted video of the bots, which will go no faster than 5 mph and be accompanied by a human being at all times during the trial period. There aren’t any out there. Mapping, according to a Marble rep, has not yet begun here in Dallas. The company hasn’t signed any contracts with retailers to test the robotic delivery system, either.
And although Rogers’ October briefing had the feel that these next steps were right around the corner, Jackie Ericsson, Marble’s director of communications and government relations, said Friday the company is still working out a timeline.
During the briefing in October, City Council member Tennell Atkins had questioned Rogers about where the bots would operate. But they’ll only be delivering to a one-mile radius around their home bases, which will be locations of businesses that have contracts with Marble. So, delivery areas are contingent upon which retailers sign on.
Atkins wanted Rogers to come back to Council with a list of possible areas. There seems to be some disagreement as to whether that has happened. According to Brita Andercheck, an assistant director in the city’s Department of Transportation, the city has gotten that far.
“We know prospective areas that we are considering and we have discussed those with Council members,” Andercheck says.
According to Philip Kingston, a Council member for a swath including downtown, Uptown, and East Dallas, the city has not gotten that far.
“Unless I have suffered some form of memory loss, no one has spoken to me about this topic at all, much less identified prospective areas,” Kingston says in an email.
I also have a message in to Atkins’ office, and I’ll update here if he gets back to me.
Andercheck said that she could provide a prospective list, but it wouldn’t mean much because the areas on it are just prospective. I said the uncertain nature of the sites wouldn’t bother me, but she declined to provide it anyway, deferring to Marble. Marble said it is still in talks with retailers and does not comment on those conversations. So, here we are. At least nobody’s tripping over any of the robots as they dodge all the construction downtown.