Ann Arbor’s Refraction Launches Autonomous Robot Food Delivery

Refraction, an Ann Arbor-based robotics startup, last week launched an autonomous robot food delivery service via its REV-1, a low-cost, lightweight robot. Customers within a 2.5-mile delivery zone can place lunchtime delivery orders.
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Ann Arbor’s Refraction has launched a pilot food delivery service using its REV-1 autonomous robot (pictured). // Photo courtesy of Refraction

Refraction, an Ann Arbor-based robotics startup, last week launched an autonomous robot food delivery service via its REV-1, a low-cost, lightweight robot. Customers within a 2.5-mile delivery zone can place lunchtime delivery orders.

The robot is the size of a bike and operates in the bike lane and on the roadway.

Customers can sign up for Refraction’s pilot program here. Upon completion of the form, instructions are shared on how to place a lunchtime delivery, which will be brought to the curb. Users receive delivery updates upon ordering and are notified when REV-1 arrives. They then use confirmation codes to unlock the robot.

“We’re thrilled to introduce this one-of-a-kind robot delivery service to the Ann Arbor community, and eventually, to more cities nationwide,” says Matt Johnson-Roberson, co-founder of Refraction. “With rainy and snowy weather just around the corner, we can’t wait to show everyone what the REV-1 is capable of. We’re all very excited to give people a taste of what’s to come in the future of food delivery.”

REV-1 has three wheels and is 5 feet tall, 4.5 feet long, and 30 inches wide. It weighs about 100 pounds and can reach a speed of up to 15 mph. The inside of the vehicle holds 16 cubic feet, or about four or five food delivery bags.

“Not only are we using cutting-edge technology and reducing carbon emissions, but Refraction’s robot delivery will help cut our costs,” says Ji Hye, managing partner of Miss Kim, one of the participating restaurants. “Delivery companies charge a significant fee to restaurants, while Refraction only charges 15 to 20 percent. It’s really a win-win situation.”

Other restaurants include Belly Deli, Tios Mexican Cafe, and Chow Asian Street Food.

Refraction was launched in July 2019 and makes autonomous robots for last-mile delivery. It was founded by roboticists and professors at the University of Michigan and is backed by eLab Ventures and Trucks Venture Capital.

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