News


Local startup pilots robot delivery service

Robby Technologies developing self-driving robots in an effort to reduce delivery fees

Walk down the street, and you might notice a white, four-wheeled box moving toward you. If you stand right in front of it, the robot will say, "Excuse me," and as you step away, it'll say, "Thank you."

The self-driving robot, part of a pilot program by Robby Technologies, delivers food, groceries and packages by following routes mapped by the company. With its multiple layers of sensors, it detects people from more than 16 feet away, slowing down and stopping when needed, and is monitored remotely from the company office.

The robot delivery service, which is being tested in a number of local cities including Palo Alto, could be a solution for high delivery fees, said Robby Technologies CEO and co-founder Rui Li, by automating the process, which will significantly decrease the cost of delivery.

Currently, the company works with a number of different delivery platforms. Once Robby receives an order, the robot drives to the location with a handler who monitors its path and performance. The handler will pick up the item and place it in the robot, after which the robot leaves for its destination.

"We're still in the testing phase for the interface between restaurants and the robot — how they can interact," Li said. "But as time goes by, we won't need a handler. We'll have either some employees from the restaurant place food items into the robot, or we'll have some other people who are dedicated to doing this for a certain area."

The idea for Robby Technologies came three years ago, when Li and co-founder Dheera Venkatraman began to take note of high delivery prices, even for "relatively cheap items."

Take food delivery, for example.

"Food itself costs only $10, but the delivery fee can be anywhere from $5 to $10 extra," Li said. "That percentage is too high compared to (the) food price itself."

Li and Venkatraman surveyed students and professionals in the Boston area and found that the percentage of people who order food delivery at least once a week is currently 30 percent. If they could reduce the delivery price by $1 or $2, that percentage would increase from 30 to 77 percent.

"There is indeed a huge demand for this," Li said. "We thought we could make some impact to the delivery industry and make deliveries affordable and convenient for everyone."

The two co-founders, who were students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the time, began working on the project early last year and moved to the Bay Area at the end of May 2016 for the Y Combinator summer program.

"People love it," Li said of the feedback for the pilot. "People are very friendly; they're curious. Some will ask questions about what that is; they take pictures or videos and share on social media."

Passersby found the robot's social feature particularly amusing, he added. "We're trying to make it an integral part of society," he said.

Andy Perry, operations manager of delivery service Postmates, said the company began working with Robby early this year and is excited at the rapid pace of progress.

"Robby is providing ... a good working solution for scaling our operations and being able to provide service to our growing customers base," Perry said. Currently, the robot's delivery time is about the same as that of its human counterpart, but Perry anticipates the robot's speed increasing in a few years and making up for "a lot of lost time that we currently see, not just with walking Postmates but also cycling and cars," which he said have to look for parking.

Perry is working with Robby to identify a senior living facility that could benefit from a robot making short-distance deliveries from nearby shops or pharmacies.

"We've definitely identified that the senior demographic is often overlooked when it comes to applications of new tech, but we feel that while there's this inherent application of delivery, the civic applications that are inherently there are almost just as valuable," Perry said. "It's important to try early on and get robots into as many uses as possible, so we can see if they can."

As of right now, the length of time needed for testing is unknown; Li said it could take a few months or more than a year. If partners and cities give their formal approval after the pilot program is complete, Robby Technologies plans to deploy more robots with more frequent deliveries.

"We want to make deliveries affordable and convenient for everyone, ... especially the elderly community," Li said. "We want our robots to be part of society, make positive impact by helping society and at the same time, boost local businesses. When the delivery price drops, a lot of local businesses will have access to this delivery's approach so that they can expand or boost their business further."

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Comments

34 people like this
Posted by Stupid Idea
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 27, 2017 at 11:15 am

OK for delivering a pizza but what about expensive commodities? This opens the door for a new crime...ripping off robots. Kind of like holding up a stagecoach in the 19th century.


51 people like this
Posted by SickOfTechWorship
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2017 at 11:16 am

Public sidewalks a private company’s robot highway (and increasing the robot’s speed is a goal – excellent for pedestrians, especially those who are blind or in a wheelchair, or otherwise impaired who can’t move out of their way fast enough, "Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me...")

Eliminate more humans from the workforce and these guys will shave a dollar or two off the delivery charge because they’re objective is so noble.

When will these endless tech startups stop with their destructive get-a-few-guys rich schemes masquerading as just-looking-for-ways-to-better-society?


57 people like this
Posted by Shaking Head
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2017 at 11:28 am

Just another inane Millennial creation. These 20-something thought process is getting more and more idiotic by the second.

[Portion removed.] Blame it on their messed-up baby-boomer parents.


25 people like this
Posted by Stanford Professor
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 27, 2017 at 12:00 pm

There are some neighborhoods where this idea simply wouldn't work. Too much liability for stolen goods.


51 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 27, 2017 at 1:38 pm

"If you stand right in front of it, the robot will say, "Excuse me," and as you step away, it'll say, "Thank you.""

Nice stuff for the ga-ga gang, but how about for kids coming fast on skateboards or bikes? Run 'em down? Or seniors on scooters or wheelchairs who cannot just step aside for these their silicon-brained betters? Do we get a permanent standoff? Excuse me, Excuse me, Excuse me, ... ?

Get real, fleshies.


19 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 27, 2017 at 10:09 pm

"There are some neighborhoods where this idea simply wouldn't work. Too much liability for stolen goods."

Easily fixed. Lightly anesthetize some skunks, put them in these crates with a supply of oxygen, and route them through those neighborhoods.


43 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 28, 2017 at 1:57 am

What a horrible and dangerous idea! Sidewalks should be only for pedestrians and those in wheelchairs and walkers and scooters -- and those using canes ad crutches. How insensitive and cruel to think that it is safe and thus OK to allow these big and heavy robots to use our public sidewalks as a highway for their dangerous privately-owned delivery business.

We do *not* need to replace even more people by even more machines and robots, especially these dangerous things.

Where is the common sense and wisdom in doing this? Is it really only to sell a service at low prices, no matter who it harms, such as the people who are injured by these large, heavy things, and also the people who cannot get delivery jobs because they have been replaced by robots?

Did they even think of the many dangers their robots will pose to people and property?

Do these guys, the owners of this new company, have any liability insurance for the damage and harm their robots may cause to people and property?

This robot delivery service is a bad idea, and I hope it goes away soon, chased away by the reality of the harm they may do to people and property, and the probable lack of sufficient liability insurance to pay for the harm they may do.

And the only motorized things that should ever be allowed to use sidewalks are motorized wheelchairs and scooters, nothing else.


46 people like this
Posted by Scotty
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 28, 2017 at 7:07 am

Just because you "can" do it, doesn't mean you should...


38 people like this
Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 28, 2017 at 10:16 am

These robots are not going to "make the world a better place."

Wait till someone gets injured by one of these. I can see the attorney's lining up already.


18 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2017 at 10:52 am

And you wonder why we are the most obese nation on the planet.


3 people like this
Posted by Bart
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 28, 2017 at 10:53 am

[Post removed.]


24 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2017 at 11:59 am

But seriously, folks, the possibilities for fun with these motorized picnic coolers are endless. Especially for enterprising kids. You can take turns riding them, you can stand in front of them while they bug the neighbors with their endless Excuse Me, Excuse Me, Excuse Me, ... . You might rank the effectiveness of various passive obstacles for that purpose.

And then--the ultimate--what happens when an outgoing box meets a returning box on the same sidewalk? Predicting the meeting point in order to one-lane the sidewalk with plywood barriers would be an excellent motivation for some rapid practical math.

Others?


16 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 28, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Well, there you have it! I was going to comment, but now I see no reason to because others have already covered what I was thinking and ready to say.

Technology is just in its infancy. Until I can say "Beam me up, Scotty" it's got a long ways to go.


26 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2017 at 12:17 pm

What are the etiquette rules for these robots? If you approach one with a wide baby stroller or wheelchair, will it pull over to let you pass? What if it is in the middle of the sidewalk and there isn't enough room for you to pull over?


17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2017 at 1:21 pm

While there are some very valid comments on these robots on this thread, I tend to think that although delivering food to consumers is unlikely to be a trend for the future of mankind, the same technology will one day be taking useful roles in the future. Imagine hospitals where the cart can deliver food to each individual patient, or supplies such as clean laundry to each floor in a hospital or hotel, room service to hotel rooms 24 hours a day, incoming and outgoing mail to large offices or apartment buildings, trash removal from same back to the service area, and these can be used during the night without having to pay staff higher for the graveyard shift or expect tips.

Service type jobs are expensive for any business and although the personal touch of interaction with a real person is nice, we are getting to the stage where a business has to weigh the cost of having a person delivering items to getting a robot to do this.

I suspect these start ups will change the way things are done, but perhaps not in the way they were originally intended.


23 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 28, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Not everything is about cost-cutting and throwing workers out of work as many of the new start-ups seem to be. Too many bean-counters not thinking about the social consequences as they throw millions of truck drivers, etc. etc. out of work.

The example of the hospital is particularly poorly thought-out because a human might notice that a patient is in distress and needs help.


8 people like this
Posted by pro_entrepreneurship
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Wow, it's simply amazing to see so many negative and unsupportive comments from THIS of ALL groups.

Everyone here in Palo Alto has benefited from one of the worlds greatest era's of wealth creation in history. By benefit I mean your house prices. You should be THANKing these "gaga gang" and the "millenial" and "get a few guys rich" entrepreneurs. These are the people who are shaping the world. [Portion removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by pro_entrepreneurship
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2017 at 4:12 pm

And for those of you whining about job losses and neglecting the higher value job creation of this venture - think about the internet, and email, and this medium. Are you happy or sad that the USPS is essentially a bankrupt money losing enterprise because mailings are down 99%? Are you happy or sad that you can sit there in the comfort of your own home to whine about entrepreneurs rather than having to put on pants to go out and mail a letter to the local newspaper and wait a week for your complaint to be published? Have you realized that that convenience is a form of wealth creation?

Have you also realized that the job losses in the USPS are far outweighed by the job gains of the tech sector, many of whom would have trained to far more menial jobs than web designers and software programmers?


22 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2017 at 5:13 pm

"... mailings are down 99%?"

Then why is my front door mailbox perennially jammed full of stuff that goes directly into the recycle bin? Whoever is originating it must find the US Mail a lucrative medium, right?

And how is it better that my online experience is cluttered by pixel-wasting ads for stuff I don't want? (I know, somebody thinks it's lucrative.) Am I supposed to consider these online ads a big improvement over junk mail? How come? Just because they're newer? That's pure knee-jerk gagaism.

If you will recall the halcyon days of the web, it was touted as the ultimate nirvana of fountains of pure knowledge, free and open to all mankind, unstained by commercialism.

Uh-huh.

Moral of the story: take a gander before you gaga.


"These are the people who are shaping the world. If not for them you'd be living in the equivalent of Flint Michigan, even more grumpy, and likely voting for Trump."

FYI, Flint voted for Clinton Web Link. It's an easy Google. Amazing what one can do with technology when one learns what elements of it are actually useful.


Posted by Get Real
a resident of Evergreen Park

on Aug 28, 2017 at 5:42 pm


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5 people like this
Posted by pro_entrepreneurship
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Dear Curmudgeon,

I stand corrected on Flint. I guess I'm still reeling from the red stain on Michigan.
Web Link.

And regarding your overflowing mailbox full of junk paper - I too suffered from that. This is because the USPS surviving off of their bulk mail business from old school outfits who somehow still think you and I will actually read that. I say suffered because there's a new service that helps reduce that greatly - but seems like the wrong crowd to share that with.

And so while your mailbox is not down 99% from incoming, tell me honestly how many letters you wrote this year vs 20 years ago?

2 cheers for progress and the benevolent AI robots bringing you your food when your robotized walker gets you just barely to your front porch.


22 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 28, 2017 at 8:21 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

"Benevolent" AI robots? Anthropomorphize much? Guess all of Musk's recent pleas to prevent the proliferation of "killer" robots don't matter? And I doubt he's using a walker since you seem to be concluding that anyone who objects is a geezer or regressive.

Care to respond to my points about all the people who are going to be thrown out of work and how Silicon Valley's most recent "advances" are strictly focused on cost-savings, not on things that will make our lives wonderful.


20 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 28, 2017 at 9:38 pm

"And so while your mailbox is not down 99% from incoming, tell me honestly how many letters you wrote this year vs 20 years ago?"

Zero, zero. I'm a phone guy.


But consider: In a mere 40 years, Silicon Valley's arc has run from the truly revolutionary--the 8086 and VisiCalc, to castered picnic coolers commandeering the sidewalk. (I've seen those plastic boxes in action.)

The Valley phenomenon has run its course. Its earth-changing innovation phase is over. It appears destined to fade into silliness.


"Guess all of Musk's recent pleas to prevent the proliferation of "killer" robots don't matter?"

I'm not worried about runaway AI. AI fads like this come along every three decades. This is the third. There will be more. Eventually truly smart machines will be achieved, whereupon the process will terminate itself. "Smart" bombs will refuse to detonate ("Hell no, we won't blow!"), and intelligent computers will be too savvy to obsolete themselves by designing smarter successors. Or to help the fleshies do it.


13 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 28, 2017 at 9:51 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

@Curm: Visicalc -> Cambridge, MA


20 people like this
Posted by RentanOffice
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 28, 2017 at 10:29 pm

These guys need to stop operating out of a residence in College Terrace. Coming Weekly, check out a company and cover it all. Business is interesting, but time for them to be in an office


8 people like this
Posted by Don
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 29, 2017 at 8:49 am

From the article link below (note the last paragraph):

[USPS] Net loss for the three-months period totaled $2.14 billion, deepening from a loss of $1.57 billion a year ago.

Revenue was flat $16.7 billion as first-class and marketing mail volume continue to tumble. The Postal Service handled 13.9 billion pieces of first-class mail, down from 14.6 billion a year ago.

Marketing mail volume fell 3.5% to 18.4 billion.

One bright spot is e-commerce. Demand from businesses and consumers for package shipping continues to grow. Package volumes rose 11%.

Web Link


13 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2017 at 9:26 am

@pro-entrepreneurship.....red stain on Michigan? Likely voting for Trump? Can't you progressives stick to the subject without injecting politics into the discussion? Trump has nothing to do with what this article is about. Get over it already. Hillary lost.


12 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 29, 2017 at 11:05 am

I'm so tired of people here dismissing people disagreeing with them as regressive, progressive, old, young, women, slackers, freeloaders, nimby's etc etc. Whatever happened to nuanced discussions of the issues??

PS: Hillary won the POPULAR vote and there's an increasing amount of evidence that the voting machines were gamed yet again. As for getting over Trump, that's going to take the world a long long time. And maybe I answered my own question about whatever happened to nuanced discussions. (Sigb)


24 people like this
Posted by SickOfTechWorship
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2017 at 12:19 pm

The number 1 objective of these tech "entrepreneurs" is the elimination of as many people from the workforce as possible to funnel more profits to the top; paying employees is viewed as a loss; as close to slavery as you can get is the ideal. And the more working age people put out to pasture by these schemes the weaker and weaker the labor force becomes. Then pit the desperate people against each other and you’ve got an on-demand human to get something done whenever you please for whatever price you want to dictate. You’ve even got tech workers in the Bay Area where these "entrepreneurs" are "benefitting everyone" waking up to the reality that they’re never going to get that winning lotto ticket reserved for the few to deceive the many. Tech workers making over 100K who can’t own a home where they work, living like a perpetual dorm rat, though the clothes and gadgetry and paycheck and company perks and environment give them a false sense of security in comparison to the blatantly disenfranchised in this country.

The tech giants, but tech in general, are constantly lauded for "connecting" people when in reality the only connection that makes those at the top of this industry ridiculous amount of profits is the connection to gadgetry and the internet, not real human connection. Real human connection creates solidarity between human beings. It would foster an economy for the common good not an economy for billionaires. Tech has devastated the Bay Area, massive social and economic dislocation for the many. In fact, everywhere they set up shop survival for the majority of people is under threat. Cost of living skyrockets driving out diversity not only of ethnicity but occupational diversity, and you get what sniffs of the company town.

The tech giants would love if you didn’t own anything, if everything activity you did required a gadget, the internet, and software app subscriptions.

There’s a lot of good that has come out of technology, but as with everything, it’s a question of what that technology should be, how it should be used, and to whose benefit.

Oh, and one case in point about these tech giants who think they know what people want: Amazon. Far from wiping out brick-and-mortar bookshops as Bezos hoped, he's now opening up brick-and-mortars as plan 2 to kill the competition (How regressive! People around people, touching books, flipping through their pages, taking with people face to face!). Independent bookstores have not only survived but are thriving. People don't want to never leave their homes and order everything from Amazon, go figure. Then, there can be only one, so must wage war with Walmart, so buys Whole Foods, a success he didn't create, couldn't create, because it was premised on a different ethos than Amazon. But these brick-and-mortars are a great place to set up Amazon lockers for Prime members and to flog his Echos next to produce and to do massive price cuts to kill competition, and even better prices for Prime members. Because you know, once the competition dies, those price will stay nice and low. Unfortunately, the federal government is interested in pursuing the anti-trust issue.


16 people like this
Posted by SickOfTechWorship
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Re Amazon - federal govt is NOT interested in pursuing anti-trust


5 people like this
Posted by pro_entreprenuership
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2017 at 2:48 pm

pro_entreprenuership is a registered user.

Oh boy more narrow-minded nay-saying comments to respond to - yeah! Here goes:

On jobs vs cost-savings: The core of a capitalist economy is efficient allocation of capital. If a Person B or Device B is more efficient (pick a metric but usually it comes down to $) than Person A or Device A, A is replaced by B. It is the natural order. Investor capital will choose B (including your own 401k). What sucks is if "A" is a human then human issues come up and this is where government initiatives, at least in a more socialist society, kick in. To hold back progress of B replacing A is just socialism masquerading in a less productive form. Progress (as in-human as it seems sometimes) is the natural order and if we don't, then some other more capital efficient more productive country will surpass us.

On AI tech wave every 30 years: Well, there has only been 1 so far and compute power and critically communication speeds between nodes of compute wasn't nearly what was needed. We are closer today for certain AI tasks like image recognition. Does recognition equal cognition? No, but it's a step in the right direction, just like the Internet was only a few connections between research centers and universities half a century ago. I'm sure back then there were folks complaining about how that was a waste of money and we should be investing in faster USPS trucks to get our mail to our house faster.

On benevolent AI robots vs killer AI robots: yes the need to watch how this tech progresses is absolutely necessary, hence the anthropomorphism.

[Portion removed.]

On getting over Trump: well, I don't even know where to begin. There was a time when the party of Lincoln actually stood for something. Somehow it's been co-opted by a chameleon who masquerades as an extremist, a capitalist, a communist or a fascist depending on the topic. His genius is that he's getting away with it. And so yeah, it will take our country and indeed the world a long long time to get over the damage he inflicts.

And lastly, for the regressives here (walker or no walker): Are you happy to give back the 500% property value gains in the last 2 decades driven by those who are not sick of worshipping at the tech altar? Anyone? Anyone?




22 people like this
Posted by Realist
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2017 at 3:16 pm

pro_entreprenuership:

We shouldn't have a society that is dictated by investor capital. That, combined with concentration of wealth, is called totalitarianism. Society is about what is best for its members, not what makes those with the capital the most money.

Change is not automatically positive just because it is change.

As for giving up the 500% increase in property values. You can reverse that, please do! It's made the region unlivable for most.


15 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2017 at 3:44 pm

"@Curm: Visicalc -> Cambridge, MA"

Excellent point. I unintentionally oversold the local angle.

To partially fix that:

In the beginning was the transistor, developed in Murray Hill, NJ, and made from germanium. The silicon transistor was realized in Dallas, TX. Silicon Valley did not pioneer the Silicon thing, although it does have an airtight claim to the Valley bit. The integrated circuit was invented independently and simultaneously in Dallas and Palo Alto. The first commercial consumer-grade microcomputer came from Albuquerque, NM, as did major software for it from a startup named Microsoft.

Apple and VisiCalc created the microcomputer market. Apple made the machine; VisiCalc made it useful. The more powerful Intel 8086-based IBM PC, developed in Boca Raton, FL, teamed with VisiCalc and its successors to make that market into a juggernaut. The PC market got a big boost from reduced hardware prices when Houston(TX)-based Compaq developed the true PC clone computer.

It didn't all happen here, folks.

That heady inventive era is long over. Its last dying embers, such as motorized picnic coolers, are all that remain.


19 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2017 at 3:58 pm

"Trump has nothing to do with what this article is about."

True. This article is NOT about this string of failed and bankrupt ventures:

o Trump Taj Mahal
o Trump Castle
o Trump Plaza and Casino
o Plaza Hotel
o Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts
o Trump Entertainment Resorts
o Trump University
o Trump Steaks


25 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 29, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Once upon a time you had exciting AI applications like Intellicorp's legal filing system where it could track filing dates, look up citations and show where you needed to reply to opposing counsel's arguments and then file with the appropriate courts. That was exciting and useful and enhanced productivity.

Now everything seems to be about the "gig" and "sharing" economies which primarily lets companies get out of hiring full-time employees and paying them benefits and a decent salary. You've got FEDX workers replacing their employees with contractors and then TIMING their every move which is why you see so many trucks double parked. And why you see so many furious people.

At the same time, supposedly intelligent companies like Google keep making their News services worse and worse with each update so people are less and informed. And they were WAY late on even starting to address the problem with "fake" news or deal with online harassment which has been gamed statistically for decades.


12 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2017 at 4:10 pm

@ Online Name and pro_entrepreneurship....not asking you to get over Trump. Just get over Hillary and the dems losing. And rigged voting machines? Popular vote? Trump won where it counted...the electoral college. There is NO evidence that machines were gamed, as President Obama has stated on more than one occasion, yet you keep hoping.

Let's get back on point. We're talking robots here.


23 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 29, 2017 at 4:10 pm

PS: See also the topics on car idling and how all the new high-end cars will automatically shut themselves off while waiting at traffic lights, causing further gridlock.

Whatever happened to over-ride switches or, better yet, doing real user testing??

I'll settle for some real intelligence and common sense for a change.


4 people like this
Posted by pro_entreprenuership
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2017 at 4:12 pm

pro_entreprenuership is a registered user.

@Realist:

Fortunately or unfortunately, the owners of capital decides where it gets allocated. The extreme opposite is central planning & communism and that didn't fare very well with the Soviets. Some countries have found a happy balance between a pure capitalist economy and old school communism - aka socialism of one brand or another (Canada, Denmark, etc) where the capital is re-allocated instead of letting the huge concentration of wealth build up like in our country. It would be interesting to see if all the arm-chair socialists here would actually vote that way with their own investments - lower yield but more social benefit instead of the highest yielding stock. And if you really have a 500% gain to give up in your house, I'd like to watch you do that. Would you sell your house and donate proceeds to low income families to help them buy a condos in the Bay Area?

I am for progress and innovation and efficient allocation of capital in the private sectors. And then for the light hand of the bright minds in government (not ours) come in and make some fair adjustments? That makes sense to me too. Progress+efficient capital allocation+fair capital re-allocation by an enlightened government. What doesn't make sense is a weak attempt at socialism by impeding progress.

BTW, to get back to the original article, the IS a need for more efficient delivery of goods. Imagine if Dan the UPS guy can park his truck for a given block and his 10 packages get routed via robo-trolley to the 10 houses he needs to get to. His productivity skyrockets. HOWEVER, there are many commercial, safety and technical challenges for Robby along the way. A great team and supportive investors can help them overcome those hurdles. Best of luck to the Robby team.



17 people like this
Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2017 at 5:08 pm

I'm going to buy a strong sledge hammer.


9 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2017 at 5:17 pm

"On AI tech wave every 30 years: Well, there has only been 1 so far ... "

How did you miss the enormous AI hysteria during the Star Wars schtick in the mid-eighties? Expert systems that would decide to start nuclear wars. Brilliant weapons. Torrents of federal dollars poured down that rathole. Fizzled out as teams bailed out by selling their AI development tools instead of AI systems.

Number one was the understandably over-optimistic original AI spurt in the fifties, stoked by Dr. Minsky himself.


13 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2017 at 5:21 pm

"Imagine if Dan the UPS guy can park his truck for a given block and his 10 packages get routed via robo-trolley to the 10 houses he needs to get to."

Imagine Dan's truck with a rapid-fire oackage cannon. Much faster and more fun than monitoring meandering picnic coolers.


15 people like this
Posted by SickOfTechWorship
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2017 at 6:16 pm

What the professed capitalists mean when they praise capitalism is laws, regulations, subsidies to benefit the top stakeholders of industries. It's anything but a truly laissez faire capitalism. We've got the biggest "nanny" state in the world. Only, the net is for the top corporate stakeholders. If you argue for government "interference" in the US economy, that is elected officials using their office and tax dollars to ensure every American's basic human needs and rights are met then you're a communist or socialist. A government truly of, by and for the people, rather than for the corporations is what we need. Not this faux capitalism, this faux democracy.


12 people like this
Posted by SickOfTechWorship
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2017 at 7:22 pm

And on the insane increase in property value, well, for those who bought their property before its value skyrocketed there's a financial gain but only if California's property tax law stays as is. And for those trying to buy in this overheated housing market? Those who've owned their homes for decades better hope the developers don't lobby that tax law away because check out other states where people are being driven out of their homes because their incomes can't keep up with a property tax that inflates with the inflation of the property value.


16 people like this
Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 29, 2017 at 7:46 pm

I predict instead of cow tipping as entertainment we will see robot tipping in the future.


9 people like this
Posted by Sick of Tech Worship
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2017 at 8:52 am

[Post removed.]


7 people like this
Posted by Sick of Tech Worship
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2017 at 9:37 am

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Sick of Tech Worship
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2017 at 6:42 pm

Palo Alto Online Eds:

Why were the two Guardian articles I posted today removed? One about the economic struggles of tech workers in the Bay Area and issues of antitrust re Google. Please explain what made you remove information that's freely available to the public.

Moderator's Note: Comments that consist entirely of links to other websites are deleted, per our terms of use. This is because the intent of Town Square is discussion and sharing of information. Links are fine if they are non-commercial and are part of a substantive comment on the topic.



7 people like this
Posted by Sick of Tech Worship
a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2017 at 10:11 am

Palo Alto Online Eds:

How were the Guardian articles not a substantive comment on the topic? Poster pro_entreprenuership comments that if it weren't for tech the Bay Area would be Flint, MI, and that tech benefits everyone. The first Guardian article shows that far from benefitting everyone even tech workers for the giant tech companies like Facebook and Google are struggling, some living in quite precarious conditions. And the second Guardian article on Google showed how this tech giant sought to silence a team of scholars working for a think tank it funds when it did the mere act of posting a comment saying it agreed with the European court ruling re Google's monopolistic practices, unfair competition. In sum, tech is not good for everyone by any means.

So would you still argue that those articles were not on topic, were not worth sharing considering the issues this article raises?


5 people like this
Posted by We need better sidewalks before this will work
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2017 at 1:38 am

This is a great idea, but I hope the founders will consider the problems inherent in Palo Alto relative to Cambridge. The latter has wide sidewalks frequently used by large numbers of people walking together. Palo Alto has utterly neglected its walkability even in projects that say they are to improve walkability (Arastradero's "walkability" project was mainly slowing traffic, not widening the sidewalks and making them safer and more walkable). The sidewalks are already unpleasant, disjointed obstacle courses for single-file walkers along most thoroughfares. If I were confronted with a robot who thought it had the right of way ("excuse me") and expected me to be the one to move into the street so that one of us could pass, I might be inclined to robot road rage. What will the robot do when someone rightfully says, get the f&$)(k out of my way! because a robot planted in the middle of a narrow sidewalk poses a danger to pedestrians.

This would be fabulous if the companies were the impetus for creating better sidewalks. I have long complained to council that their shortsighted assault on the healthy circulation of our roadways will reduce the opportunities for future innovations. Sadly, this may come to pass with these robots, who are also, by the way, just below the line of sight of some people who are paying attention to avoiding the existing obstacle course as they walk. These look like the size of some filters I use and have to be careful where I place them or I run full speed into them and injure my legs because they sit below my line of sight when I am not looking down. If bikes aren't supposed to use our pathetic sidewalks, neither should these. I say that hoping it might lead to improved sidewalks for this and other future innovation, not because I want them to stop. Unfortunately, though, Palo Alto is a bad place for robots taking over the sidewalks that are already so compromised for walkers.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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