Robot Food Delivery

Robot Food Delivery

David Sparks Ph.D.
David Sparks Ph.D.
People on the campus of University of Idaho are getting food delivered to them from several Idaho Eats locations by robots.

The service is provided by Starship Technologies, which debuted the technology on campuses in 2018 and now operates food delivery robots on two dozen college campuses in the United States.The U of I campus has a fleet of 15 food delivery robots, which can each carry the equivalent of about three shopping bags of groceries.

“Whether you’re in the admin building and you don’t have time to and you don’t have time to run down here and grab food, it allows you to skip the line, order ahead and have it delivered right to you,” said Kim Howe, Idaho Eats Marketing and Guest Experience at University of Idaho.

“It costs the price of a meal plus a $1.99 delivery fee, which is very reasonable compared to other delivery fees out there. And it integrates into our meal plan so all students on a meal plan if they have Dining Dollars, their Dining Dollars cover everything including the cost of the meal and including that $1.99 delivery fee. So, it’s amazing, it’s a great value add for students on a meal plan and faculty and staff members on a meal plan. It gives them that extra convenience,” said Howe.

And if you’re not on a meal plan you can just use a regular credit card.

The robot cruises along at up to 4 mph, and can hold about 20 pounds in its delivery compartment, which is cleaned before and after each delivery.

Andrew Tucker, Starship Technologies Site Lead.“It has a full sweet of accessories, so you can put a pizza box in there if you have to. And then you can have to six drinks in there and you can still fit a whole bunch of stuff in there,” said Tucker.

“At the front there’s a whole bunch of cameras and other sensors, there’s onsite stuff that keep it from running into nearby obstacles, but then it’s running on a map that it gets from an A.I. so it actually gets plotted by a computer that when an order comes in like say you place your order, the A.I. makes a path for it and that’s optimized per trip so it just starts working on better paths and better times to get to you so it speeds up over time because it’s learning about that,” said Tucker.

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