The Economic Times

Grocery-carrying robots are coming. Do we need them?

AP|
​Gita: First cargo-carrying robot
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​Gita: First cargo-carrying robot

The first cargo-carrying robot marketed directly to consumers is on sale this holiday season. But how many people are ready to ditch their second car to buy a two-wheeled rover that can follow them around like a dog?

In pic: A cargo-carrying robot called the Gita sits near a waterfront park in Boston.

AP
​Cost and weight
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​Cost and weight

Corporate giants like Amazon, FedEx and Ford have already been experimenting with sending delivery robots to doorsteps. Now Piaggio, the Italian company that makes the Vespa scooter, is offering a stylish alternative to those blandly utilitarian machines - albeit one that weighs 50 pounds (23 kilograms) and costs $3,250.

In pic: Piaggio Fast Forward co-founder Jeffrey Schnapp talks about his company's cargo-carrying robot called the Gita.

AP
​Purpose
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​Purpose

It's named the Gita (JEE'-tah) after the Italian word for a short, pleasurable excursion - the kind you might take to pick up some lacinato kale and gourmet cheese at the farmers market. Its creators have such trips in mind for the 'hands-free carrier' that can hold produce and other objects as it follows its owner down a sidewalk.

"We're trying to get you out into the world and connected to that neighborhood you decided to move to because it was so walkable," said Greg Lynn, CEO of Piaggio's tech-focused subsidiary, Piaggio Fast Forward.

Image credit: www.piaggiogroup.com/

Agencies
​What analysts say
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​What analysts say

Tech industry analysts are already declaring the Gita as doomed to fail unless it finds a more practical application, such as lugging tools around warehouses, hospitals or factory floors.

That's a lot of money for what is in effect just a cargo-carrying robot that's going to carry your groceries.

Image credit: www.piaggiogroup.com/

Agencies
​How does it work?
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​How does it work?

The Gita doesn't require a phone or intrusive people-tracking technology such as facial recognition or GPS.

It basically just locks onto you and tracks you.

Image credit: www.piaggiogroup.com/

Agencies
​Similar-looking machine
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​Similar-looking machine

Amazon is experimenting with a similar-looking machine that delivers retail goods in a handful of U.S. neighborhoods. FedEx is testing its own delivery rover in partnership with Pizza Hut, Walmart, Target and Walgreens.

Ford has showed off a gangly two-legged robot to carry items to homes. So far, none are as far along as Starship, which has hundreds of its machines already in service.

AP
​Impractical?
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​Impractical?

The wheeled cargo robots that have already made it out into the wild have significant limitations.

The Gita might still be impractical for many people. It favors paved environments that are dense enough to have stores in walking distance, but not so dense that the machines get lost in the crowd.

And anyone who is simply looking to pull home groceries without heavy lifting can find durable wagons online for less than $100.

In pic: Piaggio Fast Forward CEO Greg Lynn, center, is followed by his company's Gita carrier robot as he crosses a street in Boston.

AP

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