Starship Technologies today announced a major commercial rollout (pardon the pun) of its small, autonomous robot delivery vehicles to academic and corporate campuses across the U.S. and Europe. In a press statement, the company said it will deploy more than 1,000 robots by the end of the year.
Starship’s robots have already been in use on Intuit’s 4.3 acre campus to deliver food and office supplies to workers. As shown in the video below, people can use the Starship app to order food and choose a pickup point (only outside deliveries for now, not inside their building or to their desk). The app will tell them when their package will arrive and once there, customers use their phone to unlock the robot and take their food.
Focusing on corporate and academic campuses is a smart play by Starship. First and foremost, this move presumably sidesteps any legal and municipal issues associated with autonomous robot deliveries on public streets. While pilot programs for robot delivery are happening in various cities across the country, San Francisco–a hotbed for early adopter activity– has put tight restrictions on them. By transitioning from public sidewalks to private campuses Starship’s robots can be more free-range, as it were.
In fact, today’s announcement comes 13 days after Starship was supposed to hold a press conference in which the mayor of San Jose was reportedly going to help “welcome Starship delivery robots to the city.” As far as I can tell, that press conference never happened. I reached out to Starship after the press conference evaporated to find out why, but never heard back.
It’s also a smart move to stick with campuses for the good of the robots. At least on corporate campuses, there will be less chance of vandalism, theft or accident befalling the cute li’l delivery vehicles. And even though campuses aren’t urban environments, there is enough infrastructure in place for the robot to learn how to better navigate people, roads, and traffic to get smarter.
Starship’s press release today said that it will continue to grow its residential neighborhood deliveries as well. In that arena, however, it will be competing with rival, Marble, which just last week closed its $10 million Series A. Starship, for its part, has raised $17.2 million from automotive company Daimler Benz.
If you’re at Intuit, or on a campus that gets one of these robots, be sure to take a pic and send it to us here at The Spoon.