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Food delivery robots arrive at Purdue University

Purdue president Mitch Daniels receives his order from a Starship robotic delivery system. (Photo Provided/Purdue University)

WEST LAFAYETTE (Inside INdiana Business) — What looks like a hands-free camping cooler on six wheels is now making the rounds at Purdue University, delivering food and drinks to just about any location on campus. 

California-based Starship Technologies has launched 30 robots at the school, the largest university campus to partner with the tech company.

Using autonomous technology, the fleet of carriers will bring food orders from a restaurant to the customer’s doorstep. Six restaurants are participating, but the company says more retailers will be added in the coming weeks.

“These robots will take Purdue’s dining program to the next level. This service adds more options and flexibility for our campus diners,” said Beth McCuskey, vice provost for student life. “Food delivery apps are becoming increasingly popular with college students.”

Using a smartphone, both iOS and Android, students, faculty and staff can order food, and have it delivered in “minutes,” said the company. The service works in conjunction with student meal plans, costing $1.99 per delivery.

Users open the Starship Deliveries app, choose from a range of their favorite food or drink items, then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. When the delivery arrives, the customer receives an alert to meet the robot and unlock it through the app.

The company says the robots use a combination of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. The robots can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night and operate in both rain and snow, according to Starship Technologies.

“We’re proud to be launching our service at a university that is steeped in history and has so many inspiring, aspirational and world-changing alumni,” said Ryan Tuohy, senior vice president of business development at Starship.

While the delivery robots drive autonomously, the company says the devices are monitored by humans who can take control.