The speed of the transition to AI-guided transport may catch the public by surprise. According to a research team led by Eric Horvitz, a managing director at Microsoft Research, self-driving vehicles will be widely adopted by 2020, and it won’t just be cars — driverless delivery trucks, autonomous delivery drones, and personal robots will also be commonplace.

Great city management involves the maintenance of smoothly operating public service, traffic, and delivery services. Demand for the speedy delivery of goods is fast increasing, but do our cities have the infrastructure for this?

Imagine you’re at home, at work, at university, or even at a festival. You’re hungry. Problem is there are no good restaurants around. What do you do? Until recently you would have had to walk to the nearest restaurant or wait for an hour for food delivery. Not so in the smart city of the future. And the future might be closer than you think.

Dorado, an innovative on-demand delivery company, is planning to shake up the restaurant business by having autonomous AI-guided robots deliver restaurant food to traditionally poorly serviced places, such as parks and offices.

Jonas Karosas, the Co-Founder of Dorado, explains that demand for easily accessible food at work or in areas such as parks has been growing steadily, but the delivery industry has not adapted to these changes.

“The decision sprung from issues that the delivery industry has always battled with: delivering in urban areas has always been an imperfect art. The idea is this — we have a network of thousands of restaurants who use our platform. Each restaurant has a robot assigned to them. They put their own dishes such as sushi, salads, and drinks into these robots, which have refrigerated compartments in them to store and display the food. The robot is then deployed to an area with many people, but not many food options. Whenever the food or drinks run out, we receive a notification, and using our network of couriers, we can then fill the robot up again.”

The robots will quite literally learn the city, building internal maps as they cover new areas. And, it seems they’re up to the challenge.

Dorado’s long-term goal is to use these robots to drive down the cost of deliveries by around 80 to 90 percent, as well as open a whole new class of commerce in the city. What’s more, their robots are not only intended for restaurants, but all business stores.

Three years after announcing the widely publicized Prime Air service, Amazon conducted its first commercial drone delivery, to a farmhouse in rural England. The month before, the convenience-store chain 7-Eleven completed dozens of on-demand drone deliveries of pizza and over-the-counter medicines to customers. Meanwhile, in Rwanda, an early commercial test of delivery drones cut a medical facility’s time to procure blood from four hours to just fifteen minutes.

From food stores, to pharmacies, to electronic stores, humanitarian services and beyond  - the future delivery services are all going to be AI-guided and an integral part of any smart city of the future.