Dax delivery robot becomes victim of hit and run

In the final moment of his “life,” Dax was able to capture the information needed to catch his “killer.”

The incident occurred at 12:19 p.m. Tuesday after Dax finished doing a delivery to Beggs Tire in Philomath and headed east on the south sidewalk along Main Street. Upon reaching the corner of 11th, Dax went through his routine of looking both ways before proceeding across the street.

“I watched the video … Dax looks both ways and sees that there’s nobody coming so he starts crossing,” Philomath Police Department Ofc. Mark Koeppe said, the robot attempting to get across 11th. “All of a sudden, this little car comes from the east and turns right into him as he’s in the middle of the intersection.”

At the point of impact, Dax’s camera stopped operating.

Jason Richards, Daxbot chief executive officer, described the protocol that Dax follows when getting ready to cross a street.

“Dax stops, looks both ways two different times to make sure there’s no traffic, turns on the bright yellow hazard lights and then starts crossing the road,” he said.

If a car is present, Dax tracks the location of the vehicle. During a street crossing, Richards said Dax goes into “boost mode,” which is faster than the sidewalk speed.

The hazard lights are located on the robot’s tracks that “I guess are not impossible to miss but pretty darn close — they’re bright,” Richards said.

The robot is monitored by a real person at the company’s office.

Richards said that at any given time, there are usually around four robots on Philomath streets — two making deliveries and another one or two going through testing.

Richards said it costs about $15,000 to build a Dax.

The collision did attract the attention of someone nearby who heard it and witnessed a small, light-colored car speeding away toward Applegate Street, Koeppe said.

“Fortunately, the last thing Dax did before he went dead was take a pretty gosh-darn good picture of the front of the vehicle and got all of the plate except for the last digit,” Koeppe said, adding that the make and color of the vehicle was also recorded. “So it didn’t take too long to run every plate we could think of and find one that fit the description.”

Officers went to the home of the car owner and could immediately see the vehicle.

“It didn’t really have much damage in the front,” Koeppe said. “I think Dax is pretty much (constructed of) light materials and fiberglass.”

Koeppe said the driver initially denied knowing that he had hit anything. After being told about the video, the man said he thought he had hit a trash can in the road.

Koeppe issued a misdemeanor citation to the 34-year-old man, who lives in rural Benton County, for failure to perform duties of a driver when property is damaged.

Said Koeppe, “Dax pretty much solved his own crime.”


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