A man who told police he was sick of Kiwibot delivery robots roaming Berkeley streets stole one and put it in his trunk Thursday night, authorities report.
Police used GPS to track the robot to the man’s vehicle, then remotely made the robot move, said Lt. Peter Hong of the Berkeley Police Department.
“They were able to pinpoint exactly which car it was in by having it move,” Hong said. “They could hear it in the trunk.”
Police initially got a report from Kiwi, the company that created the robots and runs the delivery service, at 11:30 p.m. Thursday, Hong said. Kiwi told police one of their $2,500 delivery robots had been stolen.
The Kiwibots are equipped with GPS, which police used to zero in on the stolen robot’s location in a parked vehicle at an apartment complex in the 2300 block of Fulton Street, between Durant Avenue and Bancroft Way.
When police got to the apartment complex, officers figured out which car the robot was in by making it move. Then they looked up the car’s registered owner, who turned out to live in the apartment complex where the car was parked, and went to talk with him.
Hong said police identified that man as 45-year-old Charles Benedict Freedman. Freedman is a substitute teacher, according to jail records online.
Freedman “freely admitted” to police that he had taken the robot, Hong said, and talked about being frustrated by seeing them roaming the streets in Berkeley: “He doesn’t like it,” Hong said.
Freedman opened his trunk to let police retrieve the robot, Hong said. Police arrested Freedman on suspicion of felony grand theft.
As of Friday afternoon, Freedman remained in custody at Berkeley Jail with a bail of $20,000, according to jail records online. He is scheduled for arraignment Monday at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.
Kiwi launched in Berkeley in 2017 with a fleet of 20 wheeled robots that pick up and deliver food and personal care items within about 1 mile of the UC Berkeley campus.
“The cooler-sized robots … are often spotted winding their way across Sproul Plaza or down sidewalks,” UC Berkeley reported in May 2018. “The robots can travel almost anywhere in the area bounded by Cedar and Sacramento streets and Ashby and Piedmont avenues, including to UC Berkeley residence halls and campus buildings. Each delivery costs $3.80.”
Kiwi did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment via Twitter direct message.