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DoorDash is shutting down Chowbotics, a subsidiary of the company that produces the Sally robot. The new was first reported by OttOmate and independently confirmed by The Robot Report.
The Chowbotics website has been changed to only show the image at the top of this article. The Robot Report reached out to DoorDash for comment on the sudden closing.
“We have decided to cease operation of the Chowbotics business, effective August 31st, 2022,” a spokesperson said. “At DoorDash, we create an environment to build new products and set high standards to determine when to scale, continue, or cut back investments. We’re always looking for new ways to serve our merchants, exceed consumers’ increasingly higher expectations, and complement our logistics infrastructure.”
Chowbotics was founded in 2014 and acquired by DoorDash in February 2021 for an undisclosed amount. At the time, DoorDash was looking to bolster its robotics portfolio with a few key investments. Two years before, in 2019, it acquired Scotty Labs, a tele-operations company working on technology that would allow people to remotely control self-driving vehicles.
According to The Wall Street Journal at the time of the acquisition, DoorDash was also exploring how to deploy Chowbotics’ technology across restaurants. It hoped Sally, Chowbotics’ best known robot, could help restaurants expand their menu or allow salad bars to pop up in more locations without needing more man power.
Sally is a vending machine-like robot that can make salads and other fresh meals. The robot could work in a 3′ by 3′ space and used robotics to make fresh salads from up to 22 ingredients. Sally then sealed the food for safety and freshness in an air-tight, refrigerated container. While Sally began with mostly salads, it eventually expanded into grain bowls and yogurt parfaits.
When DoorDash acquired Chowbotics, the company had already deployed more than 100 Sally robots in hospitals and universities. DoorDash told OttOmate that Sally was not meeting internal benchmarks, which led the company to rethink the product. According to DoorDash, all Sally robots currently deployed will be retired. The company expects around 35 layoffs because of the shutdown.
DoorDash seems to still be interested in the robotics space, and its robotics division, DoorDash Labs, is still running. DoorDash Labs was announced in November 2021, but had been in operation since 2018. Patents published in September and October of 2021 indicate that the company has been developing its own autonomous delivery robots since at least 2019.
DoorDash isn’t the only technology company downsizing this week. Starship Technologies, a sidewalk delivery robot company that DoorDash had previously collaborated with, recently laid off 11% of its global workforce. The company, which has engineering headquarters in Estonia and business headquarters in San Francisco, said it has been negatively impacted by the “dramatic downward shifts” in the global economy and investment market.
Similar downward shifts in the global investment market, specifically the investment market in China, were cited for the reported layoffs at Pudu Robotics, a Chinese developer of commercial service robots. Private equity investments in China have dropped to their lowest point in decades, according to reporting from the South China Morning Post.