TORONTO — Tiny Mile is like any other food delivery service: the customer places an order, the meal is prepared, and the driver picks up the order and brings it to the customer’s doorstep. The only difference is Tiny Mile dispatches AI robot cars instead of human drivers.
“We believe this invention has the potential to better our society by making food delivery more affordable and more environmentally friendly,” Tiny Mile founder Ignacio Tartavull told Toronto Life.
“It could be a real time-saver for people who spend a lot of their day running errands — we liken it to the invention of the washing machine,” he added. Tartavull had constructed the prototype in his living room as a fun experiment.
How Tiny Mile’s delivery service works (VIDEO: Tiny Mile)
The robot cars, each christened “Geoffrey,” are remotely controlled by a human operator from “the comfort of their homes,” according to their website. Using video game controllers, the “pilot” manoeuvres Geoffrey through urban sidewalks at a pedestrian speed of 6 km/h. Each robot car is outfitted with GPS and camera systems.
Customers place their meal orders from the Tiny Mile website, which currently features a modest assortment of restaurants in the downtown core. The company, headquartered in the Canary District, receives a notification of the order and sends Geoffrey to the location to collect the meal.
When the order is ready, a restaurant employee places the meal into a compartment that is locked throughout the journey until it arrives at its final destination.
“Geoffrey was invented to significantly reduce delivery costs for customers and restaurants in an eco-conscious and sustainable manner,” the Tiny Mile website reads.
Since it is still in its testing phase, Tiny Mile offers its services only on select days and at limited times: Tuesday to Saturday, from 12 PM to 8 PM.
Tartavull gave the heart-eyed Geoffrey a cheerful pink exterior because it is his favourite colour, he told Toronto Life (PHOTO: Tiny Mile)
Named after AI pioneer Geoffrey Hinton, the robots are powered by rechargeable batteries and, as a result, do not produce any carbon emissions.
“The goal is to create something that makes delivery more eco-friendly and more affordable to consumers and to merchants so that everyone wins,” he said.
Instead of charging restaurants for commission as conventional food delivery services do, Tiny Mile imposes a flat rate of $6, which is split evenly between the restaurant and customer, according to CBC Kids News.
Third-party apps like Uber Eats charge as much as 30% in commission, and, according to BlogTO, this percentage has lead to merchant attrition, with many abandoning the service for a cheaper alternative.
Tartavull posing with Geoffrey as they cross the street (PHOTO: @tinymiledelivery on Instagram)
Tartavull has lofty ambitions for his tiny invention, with hopes that he can expand Geoffrey’s radius of operation to cover the entire city and places outside of Toronto. The company even has a survey for customers to vote on the next location for Geoffrey.
Tartavull’s goal is to make food delivery less of a class luxury and more of a democratic convenience everyone can access and afford. “It shouldn’t just be a small percentage of the population who can afford to save time by ordering delivery.”
He envisions that eco-friendly, economic modes of transport such as his own invention will be the future of delivery services.
“A few years from now, it’s going to sound ridiculous that we used a car to carry a burrito,” he said to CBC.
Wiki Production Code: A0448