Robots May Soon be Delivering Pizza on a College Campus Near You

You no longer have to run out to get food, groceries, or even medications on a rainy night.

Sep 6, 2019

College students eat a lot of pizza and dorm deliveries are the norm on most campuses. But now, instead of delivery by car or motorcycle, robots may soon be zipping around campus delivering pizza, groceries, or even medications.

Starship Technologies, a leading autonomous delivery service – via 6-wheeled robots – announced in a company press release that it is planning to expand its service to 100 university campuses.

The company said that the rollout began earlier in 2019 with a partnership with the foodservice company Sodexo, Inc. beginning with George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and a short time later at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Purdue University in Indiana and the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania are set to begin robot delivery beginning in September 2019, and more campuses will follow over the course of the next two years.

The San Francisco (and Estonia) startup that was founded in 2014, just announced that it hit the 100,000 commercial delivery milestone. Starship Technologies operates in many areas around the world and its robots have traveled 350,000 miles and crossed 4 million streets to meet this impressive total.

The company is known for its restaurant and grocery deliveries and has delivered: "over 6,000 pizzas, 7,000 gallons of milk, 8,000 coffees, 9,000 sushi rolls, 15,000 bananas as well as over 3,700 diapers."

Now with close to $40M in series A funding, the company is expanding into the campus scene. “This new investment will see Starship expand onto more campuses as we head towards a goal of offering our service to over one million students,” said Lex Bayer, CEO of Starship Technologies.

“An entire generation of university students are growing up in a world where they expect to receive a delivery from a robot after a few taps on their smartphone. The reception to our service both on campuses and in neighborhoods has been phenomenal. Our customers appreciate how we make their lives easier and give them back the gift of time,” said Bayer.

The electric robots have a trunk that can hold 20 lbs. and sensor cameras around the outside so it can identify obstacles and uses AI to help direct the robot to where it is going according to The Verge. The robots can maneuver up curbs but not stairs, so they are not usable in multi-story buildings.

The delivery range is three to four miles and moves at about four mph. While this is slower than even a delivery person on a bicycle, Bayer said the ability to keep working for hours without a break is what gives it an advantage over other delivery methods.

The delivery fee is a very economical at $1.99 or less per order. The Starship Deliveries App is available on Android and iOS.

There are other startups working on new ways to deliver goods sustainably like Electric Assisted Vehicles, that uses a zero-emission e-cargo bike, in the UK. There are also other delivery companies that use robots that range from small to the size of a mini robotic van, but they are not completely autonomous.

“When it comes to the competition, we really think — and I’m sorry, it’s a terrible pun — but we’re literally miles and miles ahead,” Bayer told The Verge. “We’re not using handlers, no one is following our robots, no chase vehicles."

"The robots are literally out there in neighborhoods, in universities, driving on the road, we’re doing autonomous driving, autonomous street crossing, we’re operating seven days a week, 8 am till 2am," Bayer said. "That’s daytime, nighttime, rain or shine. We’ve even driven in the snow for several days at some of these campuses. So you know, we’re so far ahead.”

The future of sustainable delivery is already here. You no longer have to be concerned that the pizza you are craving will be delivered by vehicles that use fossil fuels and you no longer have to make a pizza run on a rainy night.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

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