Autonomous Food Delivery Robots Hitting the Streets at UT Dallas

The app’s user experience includes an interactive map that tracks the robot, and once it arrives, the user gets an alert and can unlock the robot via the app.

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Students, faculty, and staff at the University of Texas at Dallas can now get delivery of their meals on wheels—robot style.

New York-based Chartwells Higher Education, a contract food service management company, and Starship Technologies, an autonomous robot company founded by two Skype co-founders and led by a former Airbnb exec, is literally rolling out autonomous food delivery robots at the UT Dallas in Richardson.

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Starship’s food delivery robot. [Photo: Courtesy Starship]

“This is a fitting partnership between Chartwells, Starship Technologies, and our UT Dallas Engineering and Robotics schools,” Bob Fishbein, associate vice president of auxiliary services at UT Dallas, said in a statement. “We are excited to bring innovative technology to the campus and improve the quality of daily life at UT Dallas.”

Students and faculty can use the Starship Deliveries app to order from 10 UTD dining options such as Papa John’s, Panda Express, SMASH’D, Firehouse Subs, The Halal Shack and Einstein Bros. Bagels. The order is then tracked and delivered on campus by one of Starship’s 30 robots.

The app’s user experience includes an interactive map that tracks the robot, and once the food order arrives, the user gets an alert and can unlock the robot via the app. According to a news release, delivery typically arrives in minutes depending on what was ordered and far the delivery bot has to travel. The robots can carry up to 20 pounds, payment is through credit or debit card with additional methods coming next year, and delivery hours are set by the participating restaurants.

“Following a successful implementation at the University of Houston, the introduction of delivery robots increases our capacity to reach more guests,” said Charlie Dorsa, Chartwells resident district manager. “This revolutionary delivery system makes it more convenient for the campus community to take advantage of our robust dining offerings from anywhere on campus.”

Starship Technologies has deployed its commercial autonomous robots worldwide and says its bots have traveled more than 350,000 miles and completed over 100,000 autonomous deliveries.

The robots get food delivered in all kinds of conditions

The robots are powered by AI, machine learning, and sensor technology to help travel on sidewalks and avoid obstacles through computer-vision navigation. The bots can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night, and handle adverse weather such as rain or snow. The bots aren’t totally autonomous as a team of people monitor their progress remotely with the capability of taking control of the robot if needed.

“Robotic delivery helps save time for students and staff who are focused on studies, especially around exam time,” Ryan Tuohy, senior vice president of business development for Starship, said. “We’re excited to bring our fleet of robots to our second Texas university, and especially to help fuel UT Dallas’ National title-winning esports Super Smash Bros. team. Go Comets!”

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