WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In one neighborhood in the nation’s capital, something’s afoot – or, rather, a’ rollin’.
“Everybody loves them,” said Tracy Stannard. “They're adorable. Look at them.”
What they are is a fleet of “Starship Robots.” Like a cooler on wheels. They’re roaming the streets of the Chevy Chase section of Washington, D.C. They are carrying deliveries from Broad Branch Market - a grocery store that’s been around for more than 100 years.
“We're really moving into the next century, aren't we?” said Stannard, who owns the market.
She also notes that she was the store’s original delivery service.
“When we started doing delivery it was all me and my car,” Stannard said with a laugh. “So, they really helped me personally.”
The Starship Robots company is having Broad Branch Market try them out.
The robot delivery is free. You can request it after ordering from the store through an app. Using GPS and other technology, the robot rolls to any address within about a mile from the store.
It even knows when it’s safe to cross the street.
“They give everybody else the right of way,” Stannard said. “They know when the area is clear.”
Perry Fergus and Angela Montez decided to order some groceries and sandwiches and get it all delivered by a robot.
“Yesterday, we saw two of these robots facing each other and they couldn’t get by,” Fergus said. “And we had a laugh and we said, ‘we’ve just got to try it.’”
Via the app, they could monitor its location and got a notification when it arrived.
“It’s a fantastic service because we’re probably about a mile away and it still managed to track down here,” Montez said. “It’s a great way to help people, while we’re working through this crisis.”
The robots are also very polite. One interrupted our television shoot, to say, “Excuse me. Will you please let me pass?”
They are not just on the streets of Washington, D.C., though. From Arizona to Virginia to California, these robots are rolling their way across communities all over the United states. Starship Robots plans to expand its reach into other states. As for the market, they hope to eventually have the robots go beyond one mile.
“The range is bigger and bigger every day,” Stannard said.
Yet, with the potential for evolution, some say.
“At least it’s not flying yet,” Fergus said. “It’s on the ground.”
With its wheels down, for now.