CHARLOTTE, N.C. — From security robots patrolling common spaces to coffee delivery robots, a push towards an autonomous future is already here for the Charlotte region.
This year has also seen several announcements about futuristic transportation options. In Davidson, officials hope to soon finalize plans for a self-driving bus on town roads, and in Kannapolis, a tech company is hoping to use drones to drop prescriptions to patients.
In Plaza Midwood, there's a new kind of pink robot rolling around making deliveries. Tiny Mile, a Canadian company, is one month into its pilot project with Undercurrent Coffee. Right now, five robots guided by a camera deliver food and drinks within a one-mile radius of the shop. So far, it's been successful, and there's hope they'll expand.
“I think it’s just an example of Charlotte wanting to try new things and be a testing ground for new technology," said Larken Egleston, Charlotte City Councilman for District 1.
And it goes beyond food service. Knightscope, Inc. develops technology focused on enhancing security. Recently, they deployed a Knightscope K5 Autonomous Security Robot (ASR) with a Fortune 500 company located in Charlotte. That company is one of the largest finance companies in the United States to add the K5 ASR to its already robust security program t, which Knightscope says provides an even safer environment for customers and employees.
“It’s a unique combination of four really complicated technologies into one, so it’s autonomous self-driving technology like an autonomous car, robotics, artificial intelligence, and electric vehicles," Knightscope CEO William Santana Li said.
According to BestPlaces.net, Charlotte’s property crime rate, when ranked on a scale of 1 to 100, is at 53.6, which is higher than the national average of 35.4. Knightscope’s mission is to help make more American cities even safer, and the K5 ASR promises to do that.
The robot can charge itself, detect people, and give officers a live look through its 360-degree camera. Li says that's a robot revolution to help boost security.
“They’re here to help," he said. "We've had a lot of crime-fighting wins actually, help officers and guards do their jobs.”
Still, there are concerns about robots going too far.
"I think there are glitches, so that’s scary," Charlotte resident Taylor Casaburo said.
“Some jobs are going to go away, and other new jobs are going to be created, it's just a shift of the types of jobs people will have in our community," Egleston said.
Despite that, Egleston says new tech is just the start as the city leaps forward.
“Anytime we offer up our city's neighborhoods for testing and piloting these new technologies, I think the opportunity is there as some of these companies become larger and more successful that they’ll want to be based in Charlotte,” Egleston said. “We want to be the place people think of where they can build a high tech company and they can create jobs and invest in our community.”