Starship Technologies, an autonomous delivery services company, announced that it will begin delivery service on four additional college campuses this fall, adding to the 20 campuses on which it already operates.
The University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), the University of Kentucky (UK), the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach, Florida campus will all be graced with the Estonian-born company’s little six-wheeled, zero-emissions delivery robots.
This announcement comes the same day as Kiwibot, another autonomous sidewalk delivery robot company, has partnered with hospitality giant Sodexo to bring food delivery to college campuses. Whereas Kiwibot will focus more on delivering food from dining halls and university stores, it looks like Starship will work with on-campus merchants like Starbucks, Panda Express and Panera Bread, among others. Despite the different approaches, the outcome is the same: Delivery companies are preparing for a more “normal” school year, even though the Delta variant continues to ramp up case loads. That could either be a blessing or a problem for the Starships and Kiwibots of the world. On the one hand, more ‘Rona means more students staying inside and avoiding other humans. On the other, it could also mean school shutdowns and a bunch of useless bots.
“We see the Starship robots as an important part of safely bringing students back to campus,” said Dean Kennedy, executive director of residential life, housing and food services at UNR, in a statement. “Everyone wants to resume in-person classes and be back on campus so we’re doing everything we can to make sure it’s done responsibly. The robots offer several advantages – they make social distancing easier, they are convenient, the students we have spoken with love this idea and they continue our heritage of being an innovative campus.”
UIC will have 25 Starship robots and UNR and Embry-Riddle will get 20 robots each, all of which add to Starship’s fleet of over 1,000 delivery robots. The company says it has completed more than 1.5 million rides since its founding in 2014. It has raised a total of $102 million, including its recent $17 million funding round.
“We’ve worked hard to become a trusted and integrated partner on our campus communities and that hard work has paid off,” said Alastair Westgarth, CEO of Starship, in a statement. “We are continuing to add new schools every semester, with more to be announced this fall. The students love the robots and the schools appreciate the ability to offer this service. We can’t wait to meet the students at each of these schools and look forward to hiring students on all of the campuses to give them real world experience working with robots and AI.”
Students and faculty will be able to download the Starship Food Delivery app to choose meals and then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. They can track the robot or they can wait for an alert to go outside and meet the robot once it has arrived, where they can then unlock it through the app. Starship says it aims to train and hire students at local campuses who are interested in joining the team and learning more about autonomous technology.