Self-driving robots deliver food

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Starship Technologies Inc., a company created by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, hopes to pave the way for the future of the food
delivery industry: robotic service.

Starship’s robots are self-driving, can carry up to 20 pounds of groceries in their compartment, are trackable through a smartphone, move at pedestrian speed and are only able to be unlocked by scanning the customer’s Starship mobile app. The robots can also play the customer’s choice of song once the compartment has been opened.

These delivery robots are currently becoming popular on college campuses.

Beginning in 2019, the robots were launched at George Mason University. Within a year, the services expanded to Northern Arizona University, Purdue University, Wisconsin Madison University, University of
Houston, University of Texat Dallas and the University of Mississippi.

People can order  from campus dining options and from the multitude of businesses that have partnered with Starship, such as Starbucks, Panda Express, Subway, Auntie Anne’s, Panera and Qdoba.

The company is active on more than 20 different college campuses and has released more than 1,000 robots. Most recently, UCLA has welcomed the robots. The robots allow for the flexibility of student and professor schedules when it comes to ordering food.

Dr. Effat Zeidan, assistant professor of general education, points out another benefit of the robots.

“The robots increase efficiency by lowering costs of food delivery and improving customer satisfaction by cutting down on delivery time,” Zeidan said.

The cost of each delivery is approximately $1.99. The average cost of non-robotic food service is around $3-8, according to FoodDeliveryGuru.com. As with all new technology, however, there are some downsides.

“There may be a concern of losing many human jobs to robots,” Zeidan said. “There is a profitability benefit of using these automated services. However, customers will lose the human interaction and the added human touch to various services in the food chain.”

Abigail Kearney, freshman biochemistry major, agrees with these concerns“I think the robots promote self-isolation,” Kearney said. “I have met most of my friends here at California Baptist University because I went to Wanda’s or Chick-fil-A and just started talking to people behind me. With this delivery, I wouldn’t want to go out and, as a result, I wouldn’t meet new people.”

Starship. has expanded to large campuses, but will it reach smaller schools?

“Smaller schools don’t need delivery services since the campuses are small enough that most students and teachers can just walk,” said Elizabeth Roe, freshman criminal justice major. “There’s only a need for the robots in bigger schools so that people who don’t have time to necessarily walk across campus to get food can just get it right to them.”

Starship continues to expand as businesses and schools partner with them.

“There is an important ethical question we should address with the rise in popularity of these robots in relation to human jobs getting replaced,” Zeidan said.

Starship has reported more than 2 million deliveries have already been completed by robots.

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