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Autonomous food-delivery robots roll out on ASU’s Tempe campus

Autonomous food-delivery robots roll out on ASU's Tempe campus

A fleet of 40 autonomous robots has been deployed on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, making it the latest institution to implement robot food-delivery from Starship Technologies, according to a university release.

ASU’s food-service provider, Aramark, has partnered with the delivery robot’s creator, Starship, to provide the nearly four dozen robots that will serve ASU’s on-campus community. According to the release, the robots will retrieve food and drinks from “on-campus retailers to be delivered anywhere on campus, within minutes.”

Starship is already providing the food-delivery services to over 10 campuses across the country. The robots rolled out to Northern Arizona University‘s campus in 2019.

The delivery process

Customers use the Starship Deliveries app to choose their food or drink items and then drop a pin on the map to designate where they want the robot to deliver their food, the release said. Using an interactive map, users can watch on their phones as the robot makes its journey. Customers receive an alert when the robots arrive and can then use the app to unlock the container and collect their order.

This service accepts Maroon and Gold dollars, but there is a delivery charge with each order.

The delivery usually takes just a matter of minutes, depending on the menu items ordered and the distance the robot must travel, the release said. Each robot can carry up to 20 pounds.

Because the delivery process is contactless, Ryan Tuohy, senior vice president of business development at Starship Technologies, said the robots can “keep students safe and make social distancing easier.”

“Campus life looks a lot different than it did at the beginning of the year,” Tuohy said in the release. “We think the ASU campus community is going to love the convenience that our delivery robots offer, and we’re excited to become a part of life at this innovative university.”

The technology driving the robots

Starship robots use a combination of machine learning, artificial intelligence and on-board sensors to navigate sidewalks and avoid obstacles. According to the release, the computer vision-based navigation helps the robots to map their environment to the nearest inch, allowing the robots to cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night and operate in both rain and snow.

Robots can travel a brisk 4 miles per hour, but will slow down if they sense pedestrians, cars, bicycles or other moving objects. Each robot can travel a couple of hours until their batteries run down enough that they seek out a charging station on campus, Ben Hartley, Sodexo’s director of campus dining at NAU, told The Arizona Republic in 2019.

A team of humans will monitor their progress remotely and can take control if needed, the release stated.

Reach the reporter Jamie Landers at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @jamielanderstv.

Source: www.azcentral.com

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