As of this week, robot-powered food and drink delivery are fully a part of college life at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). After several months of testing (and stopping tests), Pitt now has a fleet of 30 Starship robots autonomously running around campus feeding hungry students and staff.
To get the robot, users order from seven participating campus eateries through the Starship deliveries app. For a $1.99 fee, a cooler-sized robot will wheel across campus to bring the food directly to the person.
Starship’s robots made their debut on Pitt’s campus last September, but the program was temporarily halted just a month later after two separate incidents of the self-driving robots reportedly blocking sidewalk access to people in wheelchairs.
Pitt pulled Starship’s robots off campus for further review. We reached out to Starship to see what adjustments the company made in response to the accessibility incidents and a company spokesperson responded with a terse “Starship reviewed the mapping of that intersection.”
The real world will bring about all sorts of issues for delivery robots that weren’t necessarily foreseeable, and they are issues that society will have to deal with and figure out in real time. But robots will become an increasingly common part of the college experience for students over the next couple of years. In addition to Pitt, Starship’s robots are making deliveries at George Mason University, Northern Arizona University, the University of Wisconsin, and other homes of higher education. Elsewhere, Chowbotics has been sending its Sally, the salad making robot, off to a number of different colleges to feed students around the clock.
Though autonomous robot delivery at colleges is very much still in its infancy, it has the power to be a real game changer. The ability to order food on demand and have it brought directly to you wherever you are on campus in undeniably convenient (post-party pizza, anyone?). But it’s also training an entire generation of early tech adopters (read: the youngs) to interact with robots, and perhaps, expect them once they leave school.