Although Cartken announced the contract Wednesday, Magna started building the robots last month.
It made an initial order of 50 Cartken Model C robots at its plant in suburban Detroit and is increasing capacity, Matteo Del Sorbo, executive vice president at Magna, told Automotive News.
The agreement calls for Magna to build thousands of the six-wheel robots, but the companies did not provide an exact number or a dollar value for the contract.
Cartken sees a market for robots for autonomous deliveries at hotels, universities, warehouses and other locations. The Oakland, Calif., company is the developer and won't be providing the service.
Other companies will use the robots to do the actual deliveries. It is a business model similar to self-driving car companies such as Argo and Motional.
"This partnership is a significant step toward scaling our business and getting more Model Cs into the world," said Christian Bersch, co-founder and CEO of Cartken.
The Model C has multiple cameras and uses machine-learning algorithms, GPS and mapping to analyze its environment and respond in real time. On-board teleoperation technology allows for remote monitoring and a human to take control if necessary.
The delivery robots can operate autonomously outdoors and indoors.
The robot that Magna is building for Cartken is designed for sidewalks, Del Sorbo said.
"It's the first application that Cartken has targeted with the Model C," he said. "But there are other platforms and applications that we'll be utilizing it for down the road."
Although on a much smaller scale, building autonomous delivery robots is a natural extension of Magna's vehicle production capability, Del Sorbo said.
"This vehicle is very similar to what Magna has done for a very long time," he said. "But as far as an application on sidewalk delivery bots, this would be the first ones that we're building and deploying."
It also fits within the company's plan to diversify beyond building passenger vehicles and parts, Del Sorbo said.
"It aligns with the strategy that we've communicated at our investor day this year and last year that we'll be moving into new business models," he said. "Last-mile delivery is a growing market, and Magna wants to be a player in that market."
Magna ranks No. 4 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide sales to automakers of US$36.2 billion in 2021.