Lt. Governor Gilchrist Announces Detroit Chosen for Pilot Program to Support Small Business and Improve Delivery Service to Residents in Corktown

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Kiwibot robots to address last-mile challenges; reaffirms Michigan’s leadership in real world mobility testing and deployments

LANSING, Mich. - Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II announced Detroit has been selected as one of four cities nationwide to pilot personal delivery technology that will provide safe delivery solutions for small businesses owners and increase access to goods for Detroit residents in response to increased demand for e-commerce delivery as a result of the pandemic.

“This pilot with Kiwibot builds on our commitment to provide our small businesses with innovative resources to grow and thrive, while providing residents with affordable, equitable access to critical goods like food and medicine,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “Detroit is continuing to lead the way when it comes to inclusive and sustainable urban development as well as mobility technology testing and deployment through projects like Kiwibot.”

The Office of Future Mobility is partnering with the City of Detroit, Corktown Business Association, Michigan Central, Ford Motor Company’s new mobility innovation district in Corktown, and Newlab on the pilot with Kiwibot to deploy sidewalk delivery devices to help address last-mile delivery challenges in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood and spur economic recovery in the community. Kiwibot was one of seven companies selected from a competitive pool of global applicants to be a member of the inaugural cohort of the Accessible Streets Studio, launched by Michigan Central and Newlab to bring together Detroiters, civic stakeholders, startups, and industry experts to co-design high-impact, innovative mobility solutions to address community needs in a meaningful and impactful manner.

“This pilot embodies our vision for Michigan Central which is to bring innovators together with the community to solve real-world mobility challenges that will lead to more equitable cities,” said Julie Roscini who leads external engagement for Michigan Central. “From friendly robot deliveries to EV rideshares, the Accessible Streets Studio is developing transformative technologies and services that can help make Detroit neighborhoods more navigable for residents, and to share those solutions with communities around the world.”

The Detroit pilot is part of a collaborative, multi-year program with Kiwibot and Knight Foundation designed to bring residents to the center of autonomous technology pilot projects in the U.S. The pilot includes the deployment of up to five robots with a human supervisor and will help increase opportunities for local businesses to generate additional sales. Detroit is joined by Pittsburgh, Miami-Dade County and San Jose as the cities selected for Kiwibot, which currently has recorded 150,000 food deliveries with semi-autonomous robots, expands its operations.

"Kiwibot is excited to develop robotic delivery services in Detroit. We are convinced that democratizing last-mile logistics will provide value for the entire community and will allow us to create the foundations for the accessibility grid of the future,” said David Rodriguez, Kiwibot Director of Strategy & Business Operations.

Local Detroit businesses and nearby residents will have access to the delivery solutions at little to no cost, thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation and funding from Ford. During the first phase of the pilot, the Corktown Business Association will help facilitate partnerships with local businesses to co-create semi-autonomous personal delivery use-cases in the neighborhood and foster scalable business models.

“We’re excited to bring another safe, accessible, and sustainable mobility service to local residents to aid the fight against the pandemic and support small business recovery in the city,'' said Sam Krassenstein, Deputy Director of Mobility Innovation, City of Detroit. We’ll work hand-in-hand with community members to ensure equitable deployment and learn how personal delivery devices can support local businesses and residents, regardless of income.”

Successful completion of this first phase in Corktown will lay the groundwork for Kiwibot to scale to other neighborhoods in Detroit and Michigan broadly.

“We have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to leverage our vast mobility ecosystem to spur innovative solutions to the challenges presented by the spread of the pandemic and help our community feel safe during this time of need,” said Trevor Pawl, Chief Mobility Officer of the State of Michigan. “This collaboration is yet another example of the power of Michigan’s powerful public private network to bring safe, sustainable and equitable mobility solutions to all residents.”

Read the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announcement here.

Today’s announcement builds on recent announcements by the administration in the past month, including the Detroit Smart Parking Lab – a new public/private sector collaboration launching the nation’s first-of-its-kind, real-world test site for parking solutions, also in Corktown – and an MOU between Michigan and Ontario on cross-border activities to spur technology innovations and transportation solutions that enhance crossings by land, air and water.

Additionally, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has included key investments to grow the middle class and support the growth mobility and EV businesses, talent and overall ecosystem in the state as part of her $2.1 billion economic jumpstart plan. This includes a $200 million investment to create a more conducive business environment for high-tech, high-growth start-ups and create jobs of the future in Michigan, $40 million to speed up electric vehicle charging infrastructure and $100 million to prepare manufacturers and the workforce for opportunities of the future.

Learn more about how Michigan is leading in transportation mobility and electrification visit

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