Yango’s autonomous delivery robots were instructed to be removed by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality on Thursday, after complaints of obstructing sidewalks and hindering pedestrians.
The Russian Yandex group’s pilot program began on a limited scale in 2021 calling itself Yandex.Rover, with the intention of replacing human couriers with a small six-wheeled robot.
In recent months the pilot was expanded enabling some of its customers to order grocery items through its Yango Deli home delivery service and delivered by the robot, with the pilot centered around the area of Yigal Allon Street in Tel Aviv.
However, the growing presence of these robots in the city over the past several months has sparked complaints about sidewalks being obstructed. One viral post from the last week claimed that the robots were blocking sidewalks and forcing pedestrians into the street. Shortly afterward, the municipality ordered Yandex to halt the pilot.
“The dystopia index in Tel Aviv is rising. Have you noticed these Yango robots that are blocking the sidewalk? Basically – the city decided it’s not enough that pedestrians must flee from electric scooters and bikes, and approved a pilot program by Yango for a robot delivery service. In the picture, I am being forced into the street with the stroller for the third time this week,” Gal Chen posted on Twitter.
The municipality responded by saying, “Mapping of the city streets as part of Yango’s robot delivery pilot is done by the Transportation Ministry, contingent upon the approval of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality. As of now, the municipality has halted this activity in order to examine their operation and suitability to the city’s infrastructure.”
Yango says: “In cooperation with the Tel Aviv municipality, as we have operated until now, we respect its request to temporarily halt the activity until there can be a new joint discussion, on the basis of the planning.”
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Yandex is not the only company that operates small delivery robots. Other companies, including Amazon, are also active in this arena. The companies in the field say that when they enter wide commercial use, delivery robots will reduce traffic by reducing the number of vehicles that are currently used for deliveries, that they will reduce costs, shorten delivery times and also reduce air pollution.
However, experience abroad has also shown that they can contribute to overcrowding and become disturbances in the urban landscape.