Starship Technologie expands its scope in distributing restaurant robots

Starship Technologies is expanding its presence, deploying dozens of pint-sized six-wheeled delivery robots on university campuses this fall. 

 Starship adds four new schools to its operating field at the University of Illinois Chicago University of the Kentucky University of Nevada, Reno, as well as Embry-Riddle Flying University Daytona Beach, Florida, campus, which originated in Estonia but is now based in San Francisco, and has Also robots at George Mason University, Northern Arizona University, University of Pittsburgh and Purdue University.

The company currently operates on 20 campuses in 15 states with a global fleet of 1,000 robots. This expansion will add an additional 85 robots to this fleet, and Starship claims to have facilitated more than 1.5 million deliveries worldwide since its founding in 2014. It was announced earlier this year. 

The Starship robots will transport shipments to a number of national restaurant chains, including Starbucks, Panda Express, Freshii, Subway, Auntie Anne's, Panera Bread, Baja Fresh, Qdoba, and more.

Each robot is electric, has a box that holds about 20 pounds of the merchandise, and contains a number of built-in cameras that can be used to identify obstacles and help guide it to its destination. The robots have a delivery radius of three to four miles and can travel at a maximum speed of 4 miles per hour. They are slower than delivered by a human on a bike or in a car, and they can climb barriers but not stairs, which may limit their appeal to customers who live in multi-store buildings.

Robot food delivery is still relatively new in the US, and there are a few startups running delivery robots of various sizes and everything from full-size minivans like Udelv to robots that look nearly identical to Starships like Amazon and Yandex, Postmates has a delivery robot. It's called Serve that can carry 50 pounds of the merchandise, and there are even some like Nuro, who have made what can best be described as a small robotic car that lies somewhere in between. Everyone claims they're independent, but some need human monitors to track their movements. 

Demand for delivery robots has risen dramatically since the pandemic, although it remains to be seen if that will hold up as the economy reopens and fewer people rely on fast food from restaurants. 

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