9/27/23 · Research

UOC engineer creates robot to deliver food to people's homes

The Spanish home delivery market has around 10 million customers a year
The proposed technology will result in cost savings for restaurants, which are charged high fees by delivery companies
With Spain having a potential market of 10 million people who order food for delivery, there is clearly a business opportunity here (photo: Kai Pilger / unsplash.com)

With Spain having a potential market of 10 million people who order food for delivery, there is clearly a business opportunity here (photo: Kai Pilger / unsplash.com)

While chatting with friends, Mohsen Rahmanikivi felt a mixture of surprise and shock on learning that restaurants pay commissions of 30% to 40% for home-delivery services. In fact, companies operating in this sector billed €5.3 billion in Spain last year in such fees, according Rahmanikivi. It immediately occurred to him that providing this service through a robot could significantly reduce costs. This is how the ADR project was born: a last-mile (covering distances of 2 to 5 km) autonomous robot for the delivery of food and groceries. "The robot, which is cube-shaped and has four wheels, is autonomous and self-driving. It can carry up to 15 kg and travels from place to place using a system of sensors, cameras and GPS that enable it to detect obstacles and continue on its way," said Rahmanikivi, the project's brain and leader.

Rahmanikivi is an engineer, a student on the doctoral programme in Network and Information Technologies and a member of the K-ryptography and Information Security for Open Networks (KISON) research group at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). The project, which was short-listed for the SpinUOC 2023 entrepreneurship programme organized by the Hubbik platform, is now at an advanced stage, and Rahmanikivi expects to be able to launch the robot on the market in approximately a year's time. Other core project members include Davoud Omarzadeh, a member of the Complex Systems (CoSIN3) research group and a specialist in complex networks, GIS and navigation; and Hassan Hayat, a researcher at the eHealth Center and the Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications, affiliated group AIWELL (Artificial Intelligence for Human Well-being) and an expert in artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision.

The mechanical and electrical aspects of the prototype are nearly finished, and the team is now working on its software. "The next strategic step is to start up a company with which to enter the market. We need investors to bring in around €200,000 to fund the technology for an initial ten-robot fleet," said Rahmanikivi, according to whom ADR could generate income as early as with the first robots and growth could be attained fairly quickly because this is "an easily scalable solution". With Spain having a potential market of 10 million people who order food for delivery, there is clearly a business opportunity here. These vehicle robots would be autonomous and would charge their batteries at cities' electric charging stations at the end of each day.

Although a simple project at first glance, robot solutions need the latest artificial intelligence, computer vision and navigation technology. "As a result, we need a multidisciplinary team with members from a variety of professional backgrounds, something that is neither easy to find nor easy to coordinate," he explained. 

Lower costs and fewer accidents for delivery people

In addition to lower distribution costs for hospitality establishments, Rahmanikivi mentioned other possible benefits of his project, such as fewer road accidents involving delivery people. In Spain, there are close to 11,000 people doing this job, and it is among the ten occupations with the most accidents at work.

When asked about the possibility of any kind of conflict resulting from interactions between ADRs and pedestrians, the engineer said that, in his opinion, “people will be delighted with the robots, just like they're delighted with their pets. That's why we think most people won't have a problem with them. What does worry us, however, is the possibility of the robots being stolen or being involved in accidents with other vehicles". 

ADR is a new example of the benefits of robotization and artificial intelligence in our lives. They save us from traditionally manual tasks that machines can often do better and more efficiently than people. However, they're also controversial because they're going to leave many professionals in a large number of sectors out of work. "Many people lost their jobs when steam engines and electricity were invented, but this also led to many new job opportunities. All this resulted in people earning more and working less, and now we all have a better quality of life. Although it's true that artificial intelligence will cause some jobs to disappear, it'll also give us a better quality of life and new job opportunities," said the UOC engineer.

The uses of Rahmanikivi's robots will not be limited to fulfilling home delivery orders from restaurants. Other possible uses include moving goods in places such as hospitals, university campuses, warehouses, large companies and large sites in general. 

The team is planning to generate income from both renting the robots out to companies and transporting goods directly, and even from using the robots for advertising.

This project supports United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 8, decent work and economic growth; 9, industry, innovation and infrastructure; and 11, sustainable cities and communities.


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The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health.

Over 500 researchers and more than 50 research groups work in the UOC's seven faculties, its eLearning Research programme and its two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The university also develops online learning innovations at its eLearning Innovation Center (eLinC), as well as UOC community entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer via the Hubbik platform.

Open knowledge and the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: research.uoc.edu.

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