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Food delivery robots roaming US campuses

Six-wheeled autonomous robots are ready to deliver food in US universities campuses. Image credit: Starship Technologies

Having food delivered at your doorstep was unusual in Italy but in the last few years it has taken up steam, particularly among the youngsters. In other countries, like the US, it has been common for quite a while and even more so in the university campuses.

Now it looks like several of these campuses will experience robotised delivery, thanks to Starship Technologies whose goal is to build a network of robots to serve people anywhere, anytime. They announced a plan to deploy thousands of their six-wheeled robots (see photo) in campuses around the US.

Their robots can travel as far as 6km, carrying parcels, groceries and food. Once you place your order you can follow the path of the robot using the same app on your smartphone. You will have to use that same app to open the robot’s container and get your pizza…
This kind of robots move at a walking speed and detects obstacles, stops, takes a diversion … Having a weight around 100 pounds, 45 kg, it won’t be an issue in case a “bumping” happens (although Starship is pretty sure it won’t happen because of the robot). They are electrically powered and can take a load up to 20 pounds (9 kg).

We can give credit to their claim since they have just completed their 100,000th delivery, having travelled for over 350,000 miles crossing over 4 million streets.

US campuses are clearly an ideal setting for these robots and Starship plans to deploy 25 to 50 robots per campus with an expected 5,000 in total over the next 24 months.

Clearly, a human biker delivery would be faster but Starship claims as selling point that robots can work around the clock and the total cost will be lower. Also, the robot is not able to walk up the dorm stairs so students will need to meet it by the sidewalk.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.