Jun 13, 2022 - News

Chick-fil-A partners with Texas robotic delivery business

A team of Refraction bots crosses an Austin, Tex. intersection.
A team of Refraction AI bots crosses an Austin intersection. Photo courtesy Refraction AI via Kickstand Communications

The next frontier in modern robotics: keeping the fry crispy on a batch of chicken tenders.

Two downtown Chick-fil-A restaurants are partnering with Austin-based autonomous robot delivery company Refraction AI to deploy a fleet of self-driving vehicles.

The big picture: It's the latest test for AI delivery programs.

  • L.A.-based Coco in February sent four-wheeled, driverless robots to Austin to deliver food for local restaurants, including Clay Pit, Bamboo Bistro, Aviator Pizza and more.
  • Wamart and Alphabet also recently announced delivery programs in Texas and several other markets to transport groceries with drones.

How it works: While the Chick-fil-A order is in transit, the consumer receives updates, typically via text message, with the status of the delivery.

  • Shortly before arrival, the consumer receives a code to enter on the robot's keypad, which unlocks the compartment where the food order is located.

Between the lines: A 2017 state law allows autonomous vehicles to operate without a driver inside.

  • Texas law requires driverless vehicles on highways to follow all traffic laws, carry insurance and record video.

What they're saying: "The platform will allow us to provide fast, high-quality and cost-effective meal delivery within a mile radius of our restaurant all while helping to keep the community we serve environmentally clean and safe," said Luke Steigmeyer, operator of Chick-fil-A 6th & Congress.

  • "We are thrilled about working with Chick-fil-A, an organization that is admired and respected as much for its commitment to the communities it serves as it is for the innovation and quality of its business," Refraction AI CEO Luke Schneider said.

Yes, but: Even as Chick-fil-A has donated surplus food to local soup kitchens, its chairman has a history of working to defeat LGBTQ+ initiatives.

  • Chick-fil-A did not directly answer questions from Axios about its position on LGBTQ+ issues. In 2019, the company ended donations to two organizations that have been criticized for being anti-LGBTQ+.

What's next: The commercial robotic delivery pilot began at the 6th & Congress location in March and will continue at the Chick-fil-A on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in late June.

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