Refraction launches robotic lunch delivery in Ann Arbor

food delivery robot

Less than six months after Refraction came out of stealth mode, the robotics startup  is launching its first food delivery service, for residents of Ann Arbor, Michigan, according to a statement released on Dec. 12.

Customers within the 2.5-mile delivery zone can now place lunchtime orders from local restaurants for delivery via Refraction’s  REV-1 robot.

The delivery zone includes the University of Michigan, potentially setting up a clash with another autonomous food delivery company, Starship Technologies.

Starship robots are already making active deliveries on several university campuses. The company plans to roll out services to 100 campuses over the next two years, with the latest rollout, in November, occurring on the University of Wisconsin, Madison campus.

Starship did not immediately return a request for comment.

Founded by roboticists and professors at the University of Michigan, Refraction touts what it refers to as the “Goldilocks” edge — an autonomous robotic platform sized to operate in both the bike lane and roadway.

Comparable to an electric bike, the robot is 5 feet tall, 4.5 feet long and 30 inches wide. It weighs approximately 100 pounds and can reach a speed of 15 mph. The inside of the vehicle holds 16 cubic feet, or four to five food delivery bags.

Customers in Ann Arbor who sign onto the new service receive a confirmation of their order with a unique code and delivery updates throughout. When the REV-1 arrives outside the destination, the customer get a notification to meet the robot at the curb.

Participating restaurants pay a 15-20% cut to Refraction, less than the 30% typically charged by UberEats and Postmates.

Co-founder Matt Johnson-Roberson said in the release that Refraction, backed by eLab Ventures and Trucks Venture Capital, plans to roll out the service to other cities but did not specify a timeline.