A fleet of 30 Starship autonomous delivery robots has been deployed at the University of Houston, home to over 53,000 students, faculty and staff. In partnership with Chartwells Higher Education, UH is the first institution of higher education in the state of Texas to offer robotic food deliveries on campus. The recipient can even track the delivery — made to a building’s nearest outdoor entrance — in real time.
“This revolutionary delivery method will make it more convenient for the campus community to take advantage of our diverse dining program from anywhere on campus while expanding the hours of operation,” said Emily Messa, UH associate vice president for administration. “By opening our campus to this innovative service, which is paid for by the customers, the university didn’t have to spend any money purchasing the technology, yet we’re enhancing our food delivery capabilities.”
To access the service, users open the Starship Deliveries app (iOSand Android), choose the items they would like from one of eleven UH Dining locations (including Drexler’s, Starbucks, Einstein Brothers Bagels, Panda Express and Cougar Village Market) and drop a pin by selecting the location on the service map where they want their food to be delivered.
The app allows users to watch the robot’s journey to them through an interactive map. Once the robot arrives, the user will receive an alert, and they can meet the robot 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. Robots can carry up to 20 lbs. or the equivalent of about three shopping bags of groceries.
Delivery hours vary at the participating campus restaurants. The service is paid for by the customer through a $1.99 delivery fee. Payment can be made via credit, debit or Cougar Cash.
“This increases our capacity to reach more customers, and I expect the robots will quickly become part of campus life,” said David Riddle, Chartwells resident district manager. UH Dining is managed by Chartwells Higher Education. “Robot delivery will also grow opportunities for UH Dining employees by increasing service hours and growing sales. It has also created additional jobs for students dedicated specifically to servicing the autonomous robots. It’s an important advancement for foodservice at UH.”
Starship Technologies operates commercially on a daily basis around the world. Its robots have traveled over 350,000 miles and completed over 150,000 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.
“Robotic delivery is affordable, convenient and environmentally friendly,” said Ryan Tuohy, senior vice president of business development for Starship. “We’re excited to start offering students, staff and faculty at Houston delivery within minutes when they need it most.”