Food delivery robot crashes into LA Hollywood crime scene

Serve Robotics began piloting an autonomous delivery system in Los Angeles in May 2022.

Serve Robotics began piloting an autonomous delivery system in Los Angeles in May 2022.
Image: Serving robotics

A self-driving food delivery robot didn’t appreciate the yellow caution tape surrounding a crime scene in Los Angeles as she drove through the area, according to a video shared on Twitter on Tuesday.

William Gude is the owner of Filming the LA Police, a surveillance Twitter account documenting police activities in the Los Angeles area. Gude was on the perimeter of a suspicion of shooting at Hollywood High School around 10:00 a.m. PDT when he saw a food delivery robot driving down the sidewalk, approaching the yellow warning tape marking the crime scene.

“I just saw it coming and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Gude told Gizmodo over the phone. Gude explained that the robot kept trying to maneuver around the tape aggressively until a cameraman lifted it to let the robot pass. The robot then made its way through the active high school crime scene, past a group of Los Angeles Police Department officers. “I was like, ‘What did I just capture?'” Gude said. LAPD did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment.

Gude said he sees these robots quite frequently in his efforts with Film the Police LA, explaining, “I have these encounters and generally they have been fun. [The robots] have names and stuff. It’s shady.” The scene at Hollywood High School yesterday could certainly be called dystopian: Officers led the crowd, which included parents with children at school, across the street as the robot passed through the group of officers.

The robot is a machine from Serve Robotics, an independent company that from Uber in 2021 following the company’s acquisition of Postmates the previous year. Uber Eats has announced that it will begin testing autonomous delivery using Serve Robotics models in Los Angeles last Maybut Gude could not confirm whether or not this particular robot contained a command.

“Serve’s standard operating procedure is to redirect, not cross band barriers; however, in this case, the robot supervisor believed they were being waved through. We are taking steps to ensure that our operating procedures are followed in the future,” said Aduke Thelwell, spokesperson for Serve Robotics. It turns out the delivery robot wasn’t fully autonomous when it entered the crime scene. “Although Serve robots are capable of operating autonomously under most circumstances, they are entrusted to human supervisors to ensure their safe operation. This incident is the result of human error in navigating a blockage.

As humanity continues to advance technology ever so slightly towards self-driving cars and food delivery robots, the road to the successful integration of autonomous robots in our society– should it ever happen – will be paved with mishaps like this.

Updated September 14, 3:18 p.m. EST: This article has been updated to include a statement from Aduke Thelwell of Serve Robotics.

Update September 15 at 10:55 a.m. EST: This article has been updated to clarify that although the company behind the bot delivers orders for its partner, Uber Eats, it was not delivering an Uber Eats order at the time of the incident.