Sodexo & Starship Tech Launch World's Largest Fleet of Delivery Robots
This initiative is the largest implementation of autonomous robot food delivery services on a university campus and is representative of Sodexo's GeNext technology portfolio for the college and university market.
Sodexo Inc and Starship Technologies on Thursday rolled out robot food delivery services at George Mason University's Fairfax, VA campus. Beginning today, Mason's 40,000 students, faculty and staff can access the Starship Deliveries app (iOS and Android) to order food and drinks to be delivered anywhere on campus, within minutes. Blaze Pizza, Starbucks, and Dunkin' and 2nd Stop, a Sodexo-branded campus grocery store, are the first retailers to participate, with more to be announced in the coming weeks. Each on-demand delivery costs just $1.99.
This initiative, which gets off the ground with an initial fleet of 25 robots, is the largest implementation of autonomous robot food delivery services on a university campus and is representative of Sodexo's GeNext technology portfolio for the college and university market. Sodexo, a global provider of food and facilities management services, is committed to developing and offering innovative services that enhance the campus experience and meet the expectations of today's students. This works in tandem with student meal plans. By making food and drink more accessible, Sodexo and Starship are aiming to make the hectic, on-the-go lives of Mason students and faculty a little easier.
Mark Kraner, executive director for campus retail operations at George Mason University, said that they are excited that our students, faculty and staff get to be at the forefront of this pioneering campus food delivery service. This will enhance life for everyone at the University, and that's something we're continuously looking to build upon. Their commitment to providing an optimal campus experience is one of the things that distinguishes George Mason University as a place where everyone can thrive, he said.
To get started, users open the Starship Deliveries app, choose from a range of their favorite food or beverage items, then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. They can then watch as the robot autonomously makes its journey to them, via an interactive map. Once the robot arrives, they receive an alert, and can then meet the robot and unlock it through the app. The entire delivery usually takes 15 minutes or less, depending on the menu items ordered and the distance the robot must travel. Each robot can carry up to 20 lbs – the equivalent of about three shopping bags of goods.
Ryan Tuohy, SVP, Business Development, Starship Technologies, said that college students understand the benefits of technology on campus and expect it to be integrated into their daily lives. Their goal is to make life a little bit easier for students, whether that means skipping the line, eating lunch on the lawn rather than in the cafe, or finding time to eat better while preparing for exams. Commuter students can even meet the robot on their way into class, he said, adding that they look forward to seeing how their service will help and support the daily lives and community of students and educators at George Mason University.
Starship Technologies is the world's leading autonomous delivery service and operates commercially on a daily basis around the world. Their robots have completed over 25,000 deliveries and travelled more than 150,000 miles. The robots use sophisticated machine learning, artificial intelligence, and arrays of sensors to seamlessly travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. The computer vision-based navigation uses proprietary technology to provide precision in telemetry to the nearest inch. The robots can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night and operate in both rain and snow. In addition, the robots can be stored in pods located around campus where their batteries are automatically switched so they can continue to operate independently, with no human involvement.
Jim Jenkins, CEO, Universities East, Sodexo North America, said that university dining programs are evolving their strategies to meet this generation's elevated expectations, such as better quality, variety and service delivery. The culture of innovation and early adoption of George Mason University makes it the perfect campus for Sodexo and Starship to introduce this cutting-edge technology and enhance the campus experience for the entire school community.
Mason student Jenna Dayton said that being able to get food delivered to me within minutes is going to be fun and convenient. The lines can get long in between classes, and once you get a table at the library, you don't want to give it up. Not only will this make my life easier as a student, but I'm going to get a visit from a robot!
Sodexo and Starship plan to expand the program to additional campus locations globally in the future.