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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Campus

Dining-bots — pick up orders and roll out!


During Khator's fall address, she showcased a new food delivery robot set to "come on campus in a few days." | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

During President Renu Khator’s fall address, she showcased a new food delivery robot set to “come on campus in a few days.” | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Students may find themselves surprised later this semester as a fleet of autonomous food delivery robots descend upon campus.

The autonomous robots, according to UH’s dining partner Chartwells, will travel around campus at about 4 mph with the ability to deliver orders of up to 20 pounds, roughly the weight of three shopping bags.

“Robots will provide an extra layer of convenience for students and make delivery more accessible by offering additional pickup spots and later delivery times,” said Chartwells District Marketing Manager Alexcis Mendoza. “Robots will deliver food even when restaurants are closed.”

The delivery service begins testing in the coming weeks and is planned to be available for public use by mid-November.

Thirty robots are expected to roll out in the initial phase of the service. The devices will navigate sidewalks by making use of nine cameras and ultrasonic sensors.

“The entire campus will be mapped and delivery will be made to your building’s nearest outdoor entrance,” Mendoza said.

Students will be able to order delivery from several select on-campus dining locations in addition to restaurants available through the service only. A $1.99 delivery fee will be added to all orders using the delivery bots.

Starship Technologies, the company behind the robot, said on its website the device weighs no more than 100 pounds.

The device will remain locked until the recipient unlocks it with a smartphone app.

News that the delivery service would roll out on campus was revealed by Matt Prasifka, Interim Executive Director of Auxiliary Services, during an interview with CoogRadio in August.

Earlier this month, the service was officially announced during President Renu Khator’s fall address.

UH is not the first university to bring autonomous food delivery to campus. Starship Technologies operates delivery robots on at least four other college campuses and is planning to expand to 5,000 bots by 2021.

“UH dining provides students the opportunity to be early adopters in technologies of the future,” Mendoza said. “Robot delivery will grow opportunities for dining employees by increasing service hours and providing additional jobs dedicated specifically to servicing the autonomous robots.”

The bots are not the only service Chartwells is adding on campus. Next semester, Dunkin’ Donuts and a yet-to-be-named pizza place are set to open in the retail space within Garage 5. There are also plans to bring a new 24/7 Starbucks location to the library by Fall 2020.

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Correction: A previous version of this article stated there would be a naming contest for this delivery robots. Chartwells will no longer have a naming contest, but may in the future. 

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