California

A food-delivery robot caught fire at UC Berkeley. Students paid tribute to the ‘hero’

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A food delivery robot perished in the line of duty Friday when it burst into flames while dashing across the University of California campus in Berkeley, reported The Daily Californian.

The KiwiBot, one of more than 100 deployed around campus, caught fire about 2 p.m. outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, according the publication, which posted a photo to Twitter of someone spraying the tiny flaming robot with a fire extinguisher.

A video of the fire posted to YouTube shows passing students gathering around the burning robot.

The unfortunate KiwiBot was not delivering food at the time, so no meals were harmed, reported The Daily Californian.

Several UC Berkeley students also posted photos of the robot’s fiery demise to Twitter.

As news of the blaze spread, students jokingly remembered the robot as a “hero” and a “legend” on social media, reported The Daily Californian.

In an online statement, Kiwi blamed the fire on a defective battery and praising the passer-by for quickly dousing it. Berkeley firefighters also responded to cover the robot in foam to prevent it from re-igniting.

“We took this issue very seriously. Immediately upon learning of the incident, our operations team was dispatched to attend to the robot,” Kiwi wrote. “We promptly pulled all of our robots from operations, suspending our service until we were able to investigate the root cause.”

Pending food deliveries were made by hand and no meals were lost, the company wrote. Kiwi has installed new software in its robots to better monitor battery safety and plans other changes.

The KiwiBots came to UC Berkeley in 2017, reported Nosh, a site about dining in San Francisco’s Bay Area. The robots, described as “terrier-sized,” pick up and deliver food and personal-care products around campus.

The robots use the same technology as Roombas, the robot vacuum cleaners, to get around, reported Nosh.

In 2017, a security robot accidentally fell into a fountain in Washington D.C., and earlier this month Amazon warehouse workers in New Jersey were forced to flee when a robot punctured a canister of bear spray, reported the BBC.

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