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Delivery robots welcomed at Purdue University

10 September 2019

Purdue University’s West Lafayette campus is now sharing its sidewalks with a fleet of robots that can deliver meals at the push of a button.

Image courtesy of Purdue University/YouTube

Starship Technologies, a leading autonomous delivery service, launched robot food delivery services at Purdue, the first college in the Big Ten Conference to do so. 

Beginning 9 September, Purdue’s 43,000 students, along with faculty and staff, can access the Starship Deliveries app (iOS and Android) to order food and drinks to be delivered anywhere on campus, within minutes. Local retailers will participate and will be announced in coming weeks.

More than 30 robots have been launched at Purdue, which is now the largest university campus in the world to have partnered with Starship to offer autonomous delivery. The service works in conjunction with student meal plans, costing $1.99 per delivery. By making food and drink more accessible, Starship saves time and reduces stress, aiming to make the busy lives of the Boilermaker community a little easier. 

“We’re excited to see this technology launch on Purdue’s campus,” said Beth McCuskey, vice provost for student life. “Food delivery apps are becoming increasingly popular with college students, and these robots will take Purdue’s dining programme to the next level. This service adds more options and flexibility for our campus diners.” 

To use the service, users open the Starship Deliveries app, choose from a range of their favourite food or drink items, then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. They can then watch in real time as the robot makes its journey to them, via an interactive map. Once the robot arrives, they receive an alert and can then meet and unlock it through the app. The delivery usually takes just a matter of minutes, depending on the menu items ordered and the distance the robot must travel. Each robot can carry up to 20 pounds – the equivalent of about three shopping bags of goods. 

Starship Technologies operates commercially on a daily basis around the world. Its robots have travelled over 350,000 miles, crossed 4 million streets and completed over 100,000 autonomous deliveries. The robots use a combination of sophisticated machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. The computer vision-based navigation helps the robots to map their environment to the nearest inch. The robots can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night and operate in both rain and snow. A team of humans can also monitor their progress remotely and can take control at a moment’s notice if required. 

“We’re proud to be launching our service at a university that is steeped in history and has so many inspiring, aspirational and world-changing alumni,” said Ryan Tuohy, SVP Business Development at Starship. “The students of Purdue are our future leaders and visionaries, so we’re honoured to be able to help make their lives a little bit easier by offering the world’s leading autonomous delivery service on campus.” 

In addition to university campuses, Starship also delivers groceries and packages in local neighbourhoods and a range of items on corporate campuses around the globe. The company has also played a role in helping to bring legislation allowing delivery robots to operate on sidewalks across nine U.S. states, the District of Columbia and several countries.

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