Colombia's Rappi trials robots to deliver restaurant food to homes

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BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian startup Rappi is piloting deliveries by robots as a safe way of getting food to people forced to stay at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The pilot started this week in Medellin, Colombia’s second-largest city. The boxy robots, which travel on four wheels and are decked with orange flags on their antennae, carry deliveries of up to 35 square centimeters (5 square inches) and are used to transport restaurant orders paid for digitally.

The robots complete the last mile of the deliveries and are disinfected before and after each use, Rappi said in a statement on Thursday night.

The robots are operated jointly by Rappi and U.S.-based KiwiBot.

“We believe that by partnering with technology we will be able to continue meeting our aim of safely making people’s lives easier, especially in situations like the one we find ourselves in,” Rappi’s Colombia country manager Matias Laks said in the statement.

Rappi has completed close to 120 deliveries each day with 15 robots in the pilot area, it said.

It said it intended to run the pilot until July and, if successful, roll it out to other cities where it operates.

Rappi, which has around 200,000 distributors across nine Latin American countries, reported a year-on-year 30% rise in deliveries during the first two months of 2020 - before the lockdown began.

In the fiercely competitive world of home deliveries, Brazil’s iFood last week announced it had bought a controlling stake in Rappi’s Colombian rival as it looks to expand in the region.

Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien