SEOUL -- To save personnel expenses, South Korean engineers are developing a self-driving food delivery robot in a project sponsored by Woowa Brothers, the operator of South Korea's largest food delivery company Bedal Minjeok.
Woowa Brothers said a prototype capable of moving at a speed of four kilometers (2.5 miles) per hour with food kept in its three-stage storage deck has been developed by a research team at Seoul's Korea University.
Like an autonomous vehicle, the 83-centimeter-high robot called "Dilly" has a self-driving navigation system using sensors. Dilly will be trained first indoors, followed by a test run at a college campus or an apartment complex.
South Korea's food delivery service market is backed by some 200,000 workers who use the transportation of motorcycles. Smartphone apps are used widely so that customers can order lunchboxes, salads and side dishes from local restaurants as well as food from special non-delivery restaurants.
While many restaurants operate their own delivery workers, major online delivery services link their businesses with small and mid-sized delivery agencies to offer services around the clock.
Drones have gained attention in South Korea because of their versatility. In 2016, Yogiyo, a food delivery company, made a successful test flight of an auto-piloting food delivery drone in an urban apartment complex. However, the commercialization of drone food services has a long way to go due to technical and other problems.
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