San Francisco-based start-up, Starship Technologies, has announced that it will be putting food delivery robots that respond to phone app orders on 100 U.S. university campuses in the next 24 months. 

The Bots

It has been reported that 25 to 50 of the (23Kg battery-powered, six-wheeled) Starship bots will be let loose on each campus, with the ability to roam around seven days a week, from 8 am to 2 am. The self-driving bots drive at 4 mph and use 10 cameras, radar, ultrasound sensors, GPS, computer vision and neural networks to process what they see in order to negotiate their way safely around a 4 km radius. 

The bot’s cargo bay is mechanically locked during the journey and can only be opened by the customer with their smartphone app. The location of the robots is tracked, so that customer knows the exact location of their order and receives a notification at the time of arrival.

Food

The college campus robots will be delivering breakfast, snacks, and a variety of other food to students on campus.  Also, the app can take orders from local restaurants which the Starship bots will deliver to students on the campus for $1.99 per shipment, with Starship getting paid by the restaurant for making each delivery.

Benefits

The obvious benefits of the food delivery robots are that they can work whatever hours they are required all year round with no pay, no holiday and no need for breaks. Also, the Starship bots have an advantage over other local delivery services because the bots are small, manoeuvrable, know their way around the expansive campuses (thanks to pre-loaded, 3D maps), there are several bots working on one site, and they won’t need to be subject to any authorisation checks for being there.

Bigger Goals

Starship has bigger plans for the bots and is reported to have the goal of getting the bots onto college campuses across the US serving 1 million students.

Starship has also started a package delivery service in neighbourhoods and parts deliveries on business and industrial campuses using the bots.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Amazon has been making the news over the past couple of years with its delivery drones and ‘Scout’ delivery robots, and the well-funded start-up Starship ($40 million in new funding) has shown how it has been able to move quickly into a niche and join the growing delivery robot/drone industry.  For the robot and drone operating companies (Amazon, UPS, Google, Starship) these bots offer a way to reduce costs, avoid road congestion problems, avoid labour problems, and potentially deliver 24 hours a day all year round.  Users of bot and drone services can expect convenience, greater control over orders, and the novelty and fun of the delivery experience.

The benefits of drones and robots, however, may come at the expense of jobs, more of which are being taken away by the advance of technology-fuelled automation across many industries.