An automated food delivery robot caught fire on Friday afternoon in UC Berkeley Campus. The robot was one of KiwiBot’s 100+ robots tasked with making food deliveries faster than human agents. The robot’s creator KiwiBot confirmed the incident in a blog post and blamed “human error” for it.
The company discovered that the fire was due to a faulty, pint-sized battery of the delivery robot, which wasn’t replaced in time. The defective battery resulted in a thermal runaway as the robot was drawing power from it. “A member of the community acted swiftly to extinguish the flames using a nearby fire extinguisher,” the post read.
Since the incident, the company withdrew all its robots from the operation and food deliveries were made by hand. KiwiBot autonomous delivery robots have been rolling around the University of California, Berkeley campus for two years and have delivered more than 10,000 meals.
Kiwi said it would introduce measures to ensure the “rare occurrence” did not happen again. The company said it has added custom software in all its robots that “rigorously monitors” the state of every battery in its systems.
It is not the first time things have gone awry in robotics. A more recent one was when an Amazon warehouse robot accidentally punctured a canister of bear repellent, injuring human workers. Thankfully, nobody was hurt due to the KiwiBot that caught fire. But, if this had happened in a less open environment, or while someone was grabbing their food from inside the little robot, it could have been a different story.