Robot Food Deliveries Come To Campus — Who's Getting The AI Deliveries Next?

Ariel Parrella-Aureli
January 26, 2019 - 4:21 pm

FAIRFAX (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A university in Virgina is admitting a new kind of pupil to campus: robots.

George Mason University has a fleet of 25 new food delivery robots running (well, at 4 miles per hour) to get students their caffeine and protein fix. Starship Technologies, an autonomous delivery service, has partnered with Sodexo to bring the food delivery robots to the George Mason University community to deliver goods for a delivery cost of $1.99.

The 40,000 students can choose from Stabrucks, Blaze Pizza, Dunkin Donuts and on-campus stores and can get their goods delivered in about 15 minutes, depending on how much food they get, according to Now This, who first shared the video. 

The robots are equipped with nine camera, sensors and artificial intelligence. They can cross streets, go over bumps in the road and act as your personal delivery friend, minus the polite social chatter. "We believe our robots will revolutionise neighbourhood deliveries, offering people convenient new services that improve everyday life," according to Starship's website. 

This new tech trend of robot delivery is spreading to other companies and universities, too. Kiwibot in California created autonomous robots to deliver food on Univerity of California Berkeley's campus and around the city. Their average delivery time is 27 minutes, slower than Starship's 15 minute drive.

Amazon is testing out delivery robots in a Seattle suburb, and companies such as Dominos and PepsiCo are also experimenting with the new six-wheelers, according to The Verge. The Amazon Scout, as the robot is called, looks pretty similar to the Starship robots, which are being used in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and San Fransisco. 

Would you trust a robot to deliver your packages and bring you coffee? Starship CEO seems to think so. 

“2019 will be a watershed year for autonomous delivery,” predicts Lex Bayer in a Jan. 23 Forbes article. He said the robots are starting help people eliminate their carbon footprint, pay for items at low costs and lift a weight off retailers struggling to keep up the demand of products while also finding delivery methods. 

But there is still some cracks and trust that need to be worked out before these little guys explode all over the delivery world. Amazon is still using a human to walk alongside the Scout to make sure it runs smoothly. Thinking about bigger cities like Chicago, though, is a another chapter. And Forbes contributor Anna Schaverien hit the issue on the head:

"Only once robot delivery companies have cracked how to make their technology scalable to cities and densely populated urban areas will their popularity soar as retailers begin to take their viability seriously."