In Lexington, Kentucky, students of the University of Kentucky were treated to a robot-led dining experience on campus. Alongside Starship Technologies, the UK has successfully launched the university’s first-ever robot food delivery service.
A group of 30 on-demand robots is now able to deliver food from any of the seven on-campus eateries, including Auntie Anne’s, Starbucks, and Subway, all of which are accessible through the Starship Food Delivery app which is available on Android and iOS. Apart from the food retailers, one is also able to use credit cards, the Plus Account, and Flex dollars, which are all compatible with the Starship app.
Standing two feet tall and running on six wheels, the Starship robots are mini-vehicles able to carry and deliver up to 20 lbs. of goods. Their size allows them to move quickly through different paths in order to successfully deliver customers’ orders.
But the University of Kentucky is not the first campus in the United States to employ the robot food delivery service for on-campus food retailers. In fact, Starship has partnered with 18 schools across the country to provide the cutting-edge autonomous food delivery program. Some of these campuses include Purdue University, University of California, Los Angeles, Northern Arizona University, and Arizona State University.
According to Ryan Tuohy, SVP of the Business Development and Sales at Starship Technologies, bringing the robot delivery service to Kentucky was an important next step.
“UK has a significant impact that extends throughout the state and beyond. We can’t wait to meet all the students on campus and introduce this new technology. We’re confident our robots are going to be warmly accepted and that the students will love the convenience of on-demand delivery,” he stated.
The delivery usually only takes a few minutes. Through the Starship app, users can select their choice of food and beverage at the available stores, drop their pin location, and monitor the progress of their order. They can also track the status of the delivery through the in-app interactive map that shows them where the robot delivery is at the moment. Once their delivery arrives, users will be alerted through the app and can then receive their orders. Waiting time depends on the distance between the store and the person who ordered, but it usually only takes a few minutes to fulfill.
In order to promote the highest health and safety standards, each vehicle is sanitized at the end of each business day when they return to their warehouse. During the day, UK Dining personnel are also on standby in case something has spilled inside the robot in order to clean it up before it moves on to the next order.
“We have been working with UK Dining on this project for over a year now. It’s great to see the robots delivering across campus. We are pleased to offer such a great service to the students, faculty, and staff of the UK,” interim executive director of the Gatton Student Center Scott Henry told news outlets during the release.
The Starship robots are zero-emission vehicles, which means their engines and motors emit no waste that can contribute to environmental pollution. Their small size also allows them to stay on sidewalks instead of on the main roads where busy streets are congested with private cars and last-mile delivery vans.
These small autonomous robots use a mix of artificial intelligence and machine learning in order to navigate sidewalks and safely maneuver around obstacles along the way. The vehicles are designed to travel through harsh climates, rain or snow, day or night. With computer-vision-based navigation systems that can map and store their surroundings down to the nearest inch, the robot cars are able to complete more than 80,000 road crossings every single day. They can also carry around 20 lbs., which is equivalent to roughly three bags of goods.
Starship Technologies aims to expand its food delivery service across the country and to include not just food orders but other consumable goods as well.