Dispatch companies are trying to find ways of making home deliveries more efficient, among other things through autonomous solutions. Russian company Yandex, which is active in Israel through taxi service Yango and delivery service Yango Deli, has in recent months been running a pilot scheme in Tel Aviv of robots that deliver groceries to consumers. Now, however, because of complaints of residents of interference with their movement on sidewalks, the project has been suspended. The six-wheeled robot, Yandex Rover, is equipped with cameras and sensors that aid it in identifying what is happening around it and in navigation.
"Mapping the streets of the city in a robot pilot scheme by Yango Deli was allowed by the Ministry of Transport subject to approval by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality. For now, the Municipality has halted this activity in order to examine how it operates and its suitability to the city’s infrastructure," the Tel Aviv Municipality said in response.
The Municipality’s decision comes against a background of complaints by Tel Aviv residents on social media, saying that the robots obstruct them and even block passage on sidewalks.
The Tel Aviv Municipality stated that Yango Deli’s pilot scheme was not coordinated with it. Deputy Mayor Meital Lehavi, who is responsible for transport in the city, told "Globes", "Yango’s technology was presented to the Municipality last year, and to the best of my knowledge the pilot was not coordinated with Municipality officials, and no orderly process for the trial was determined as required."
Contrary to the statements from the Municipality, Yango said that actually there had been cooperation over the trial. "The robots always work in ‘pedestrians first’ mode. Our robots only work in streets in which there is enough room so that they will not disturb pedestrians, and of course they are ‘green’ and save energy. Cooperating with the Municipality, as we have done up to now, we respect the request to halt the activity until it is brought back for joint discussion as planned."
The company chooses not to provide information about the pilot scheme itself and its performance, and whether operating it was from the start in accordance with the Ministry of Transport’s conditions and coordinated with the Tel Aviv Municipality.
Yandex is one of many companies around the world that are trialing similar delivery robots.