Credit : Wired

Self-driving cars have it rough. They have to detect the world around them in fine detail, learn to recognize signals, and avoid running over pets. But hey, at least they’ll spend most of their time dealing with other robot cars, not people.

Now, a delivery robot, on the other hand, it roams sidewalks. That means interacting with people—lots of people—and dogs and trash and pigeons. Unlike a road, a sidewalk is nearly devoid of structure. It’s chaos.

Block by block, a San Francisco startup called Marble has been trying to conquer that chaos with a self-driving delivery cart. Today, they’re announcing a new, more powerful robot they hope is up to the task—and that will prove to skeptical regulators that the machines are smart enough operate safely on their own.

Marble’s previous robot is what we might call semi-autonomous. It can find its way around, but a human chaperone always follows to remote-control it out of trouble. But that’s a temporary measure—Marble wants to make these things proficient enough to find their own way around the people and the buskers and the intersections. One particularly important upgrade is extra cameras to fill in blind spots. “As you might imagine, one of the challenges that we have is seeing a small curb, understanding where it is, and driving around that in a sensible way, or telling the difference between a dog's tail and a stick,” says Kevin Peterson, Marble cofounder and software lead. “So the upgrades in cameras have improved that.”

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