In less than 2 years, Kiwibots have empowered thousands of people around California and helped to fundamentally transform the urban logistics landscape. These successes, however, have come with challenges, opportunities to improve and, above all, the obligation to remain transparent with our community.
We’re writing today to share with you the challenges we have experienced with our robots and how we are addressing them. They have impacted less than 0.6% of our robot fleet, but we wanted to share what we’re doing to fix it.
Kiwi uses many different processes in our delivery operations. One of those processes is relating to replacing the batteries on the robot in case the battery gets low. To help our operations team identify the health of our robots, we use a color visualization method to indicate their battery level: red for robots that need to get the battery replaced asap, yellow for robots that will need to be replaced within an hour, and green for robots that are fine.
On the 14th of December this year, one of the batteries for our robot that was idling started smouldering, eventually leading to some smoke and minor flames. A member of the community acted swiftly to extinguish the flames using a nearby fire extinguisher. Within moments of the incident occurring, it had already been contained. The Berkeley Fire Department arrived shortly thereafter to secure the scene, and doused the robot with foam ensuring there was no risk of re-ignition.
We took this issue very seriously. Immediately upon learning of the incident, our operations team was dispatched to attend to the robot. We promptly pulled all of our robots from operations, suspending our service until we were able to investigate the root cause. Customers that had orders in progress had their food delivered by hand, minimizing the impact on the service. At no time were customers or members of the public at risk.
Kiwi recently unveiled a new battery management process that will ensure that such issues would not be reproduced. Here are some facts:
- We learned that the root cause was human error when replacing the batteries, where a defective battery was put in place of a functioning one. This caused an exceedingly rare occurrence of the battery experiencing thermal runaway.
- To ensure this will not happen again, Kiwi has put in custom software that will rigorously monitor the state of each battery.
Kiwi takes full responsibility for our Kiwibots. The safety of our customers, our communities and the wider public is our highest priority, and we will continue to hold ourselves to the highest possible standard.
In the coming weeks, Kiwi will be announcing industry-first initiatives designed to help us fulfill the promise of being the global leader in safe, smart last mile logistics.
If you have questions or concerns about safety at Kiwi, please do not hesitate to contact us by clicking here and writing “safety” in the subject line.