Delivery robots help Ann Arbor restaurants weather COVID
May 27, 2020
Until the robots roll up, Korean eatery Miss Kim looks like any other COVID-stilled storefront in downtown Ann Arbor, with chairs upended on tables and hastily scrawled signs papering the windows. Inside, chef and managing partner Ji Hye Kim, a University of Michigan alum, cooks takeout orders. While the restaurant does a brisk carryout business, Kim says she brings in less than half the revenue she did before COVID closed the dining room.
Business is booming, however, for the trickle of three-wheeled, autonomous REV-1 delivery robots that silently park themselves at Miss Kim’s curb, ready to be loaded with food before they wheel away to pre-programmed destinations. Refraction AI, a University of Michigan startup that began delivering food in late 2019, says its pilot deployment of eight robots is doing four times as many runs since the crisis began.