Starship Technologies in partnership with Sodexo, Inc., recently launched an on-demand food delivery robot service at George Mason University. A fleet of 25 mobile robots was deployed to serve a community of approximately 40,000 students, staff, and faculty. The company stated that it was the implementation of autonomous robot food delivery service on a university campus. Through the Starship Deliveries app that is available via iOS and Android, users can order their food and drinks to be delivered anywhere on the campus. Currently, the retailers in this program include Starbucks, Blaze Pizza, and Dunkin’ Donuts and 2nd Stop, a campus grocery store branded by Sodexo. Each on-demand delivery cost $1.99 excluding food costs.
Users can pin the delivery location through the app where they want the delivery to be sent. Movement of the robot can be watched via an interactive map while the delivery is autonomously completed. Once the robot reaches the destination, the customer will receive an alert, and they can meet the robot and unlock it with the app. Delivery is usually completed within 15 minutes or less; it depends on the menu items and the distance the robot has to travel. The robots can lift 20 pounds. Starship said that the robots make use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and sensor arrays to travel on sidewalks and move around obstacles. The robot can cross streets, travel at night, climb curbs, and function in both rain and snow.
The robots are stored in pods located on the campus, where the batteries are automatically changed to operate without human interaction. The company was expected to deploy 1000 robots by the end of December 2018 but backed off from that number. It was able to raise $42.2 million in venture funding with Daimler Benz as an investor. The robot is making deliveries on the corporate campus of Intuit, and it is moving around the town of Milton Keys, Britain, delivering groceries and packages. College and corporate campuses are great places to make use of autonomous robot delivery pilots because those are the places where people are usually confined to for an entire day. By implementing the program in college campuses, a whole generation of customers can be trainers to use on-demand robot delivery.