Crossing Dubai roads, stopping for traffic signals: How a robot delivered my food in 10 minutes

Payment for the service is made through credit cards and Apple Pay only, cash on delivery is not possible


Waheed Abbas

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Talabot. Photos: M Sajjad
Talabot. Photos: M Sajjad

Published: Thu 16 Feb 2023, 7:25 PM

Last updated: Thu 16 Feb 2023, 10:40 PM

This is not a drill - the robots are coming. A fleet of delivery robots will soon be scooting the streets of Dubai communities and bringing food to your doorsteps. Talabat has launched a pilot project whereby the robots – Talabots, running at a maximum speed of 8km per hour – will deliver food to residents.

The online food delivery company invited Khaleej Times to experience it first-hand in Cedre Shopping Centre in Dubai Silicon Oasis on Thursday. Guided by the Talabat team, we placed an order through the company's app for Starbucks.

“When placing the order, you must choose ‘Starbucks by Robot’ for the delivery option; otherwise, a regular delivery riders will deliver the order. Payment for the service is made through credit cards and Apple Pay only, not cash on delivery.

"Also, select a pin where the order needs to be delivered. Make sure you drop the pin at the right place because sometimes people place it in the parking lot, and a robot will take the delivery to that location,” Maria Estevan, director of special projects at Talabat, said while guiding about placing the order.

Once the order was placed, an autonomous robot manoeuvred through residents inside the Cedre Villas Community Centre and stopped in front of the Starbucks café. Staff at the Starbucks counter brought the order and placed it inside the robot’s cabin, which maintains the temperature required for the food.

Once the cabin is closed, the bot starts moving towards its destination. On the way, the autonomous bot smoothly navigated through the footpath, to the pedestrian crossing and onto the road.

It slowed down while taking different turns, going up and down the pedestrian way during its seamless journey. It stopped, too, when passersby or a hurdle approached closer to the autonomous delivery machine.

“It can recognise when the traffic signal turns green and red,” said the Talabat official.

When the robot reached in front of the villa to deliver food, it steered through vehicles parked closer to the gate to come right to the front entrance gate. The moment the robot arrived at the gate, we received a message on the app to collect the delivery.

“Once you press the button on the app, only then the cabin opens for collection. Therefore, nobody else can open it during the journey or upon reaching its destination,” said Maria Estevan.

Once the order is collected, the bot started its journey back journey and parks near the main entrance of the Cedre Shopping Centre.

The company has deployed seven robots to cater to around 300 Cedre Villa Community in Silicon Oasis.

Launched in cooperation with the Roads and Transport Authority and DSO Authority, initially, robots deliver goods from three F&B outlets at Cedre Shopping Centre.

“We are serious about scaling it up and we are looking into community areas. Talabat delivers food, not toys, therefore, it has to be delivered within 15 minutes to maintain the quality of the food. And robots deliver it within this specific period, some faster than delivery riders,” she said.


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