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Chick-fil-A rolls out AI delivery robots in Florida

The fast-food restaurant says the robots have the potential to enhance restaurant operations and cut delivery costs.
Credit: AP
FILE - This July 19, 2012, file photo, shows a Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant in Atlanta. Chick-fil-A is gifting $500,000 to a leadership development program at Morris Brown College, an historically Black college in Atlanta, the school announced Monday, May 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart, File)

TAMPA, Fla. — It seems like artificial intelligence is getting more advanced every day, with robots being used to assist in surgeries, create art and even de-escalate dangerous police situations. Now, the technology is bringing us a whole new level of convenience in the form of spicy chicken sandwiches right at our doorsteps.

Chick-fil-A is rolling out (literally) a group of autonomous delivery robots to a limited number of restaurants in California, Texas and Florida.

The fast-food giant is partnering with multiple autonomous delivery partners during this testing phase in hopes of finding ways to get those famous waffle fries and nuggets to customers without making them wait in long lines.

"At their full potential, these robots can enhance restaurant operations, cut delivery costs and provide great-tasting food with the consistency our guests expect," Chick-fil-A wrote in a release.

According to the company, the autonomous delivery robots are equipped with depth-perception cameras and artificial intelligence to navigate traffic patterns and maneuver around people from crowded sidewalks to mall food courts.

Apparently, the robots are pretty speedy too. Chick-fil-A says the ones in Austin, Texas, can reach up to 15 miles per hour. But, these traveling delivery machines aren't hitting the streets completely on their own — at least for now.

During the test period, human “safety chasers” will follow the vehicles to make sure everything goes smoothly and to answer any questions curious onlookers may have.

Here's how it works.

Hungry guests will place a delivery order through the Chick-fil-A app or website. Once the food is ready, a team member will pack it into the insulated robot and send it on its way.  

From there, guests will receive a text alerting them when the food has arrived with instructions on how to retrieve it. 

“It’s always going to be about well-prepared, quality food,” John Featherston, senior director of new ventures, said. “But where and how you consume your Chick-fil-A meal based on your daily needs is constantly changing. We want to learn how to extend our hospitality from our restaurants to meet you where you are.”

You can check out the fast-food joint's website if you're interested in having your food delivered, but there's no guarantee you'll be meeting a robot at the dropoff spot. One Chick-fil-A in Austin that's already been testing the delivery vehicles only uses them when guests are within a mile of the restaurant.

Chick-fil-A isn't the only company exploring autonomous delivery options. Domino's is currently testing self-driving pizza delivery robots in Houston. Walmart is also delivering groceries to some Tampa Bay area customers with drones.

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