Tech startup is finding success in the U.S. after it was shunned by Toronto
After being pretty much outright banned in Toronto, the tech startup that caused a stir here has now migrated to the United States.
People were bemused and sometimes upset by the little pink robots nicknamed Geoffrey that roamed the streets delivering for company Tiny Mile in Toronto, and the concept was soon stopped in its tracks here in Canada.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance called for robots like Geoffrey to be banned from public spaces in a 2021 brief that said such technology "creates a substantial and worrisome new disability barrier impeding people with disabilities in their safe use of public sidewalks and other paths of travel."
Though there was pushback against them being removed from Toronto sidewalks, by this point you won't see any pink androids rolling around these parts.
Now, they've opened up in Charlotte, North Carolina and Miami, Florida and they've been getting a warm welcome.
"These cities truly love us," Tiny Mile CEO Ignacio Tartavull. "They have helped us enormously with recruiting people to work with us, to get a nice office there, to work with local business, with doing food runs, and many more things."
The concept works using an app so items can be sent out for free same-day delivery, as long as they're within a specified pickup and dropoff zone and are under 20 pounds. It's being presented as an eco-friendly option, and they've been offering opportunities to put branding on the robots so it's seen across town.
There's an entire section of their website dedicated to safety that seems designed to put to rest any similar fears about accessibility as were encountered here in Ontario, with a full safety report PDF available and a promise that there are "Real people behind the robots."
"Only the most qualified candidates are permitted to drive, whose performance is regularly monitored and audited for quality assurance. These pilots undergo extensive training that covers strict adherence to regional laws and regulations," reads the site.
"We will always yield to pedestrians and remain keenly aware of potentially vulnerable individuals, such as those with disabilities, children, and elders."
The site also says they work "directly with communities," "collaborating with regulators, manufacturing and safety experts, as well as with local officials."
"Each robot is given an ID tag that includes the company name, email, and a contact number so that individuals with concerns can reach out to us and any incidents brought to our attention can be investigated thoroughly," reads their "Inclusivity" section.
People have been leaving comments on Instagram posts from Tiny Mile like "Geoffrey is just the cutest," with some people from Canada writing things like "Miss you, Geoffrey! Love, Toronto" and "I miss seeing them in Toronto sooooooooo much."
When asked if Tiny Mile would ever return to Toronto, Tartavull says, "At the end of the day, Toronto is where we call home, and we would like to make delivery affordable to both restaurants and consumers."
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