College campuses are being flooded with new students right now, but there could be some other new arrivals if Starship Technologies has its way. The robotics company has closed a new round of funding that will allow it to deploy a small army of autonomous sidewalk delivery robots to as many as 100 college campuses around the US.
The six-wheeled Starship robots are small, about knee-high, and fully electric. Since launching in 2018, Starship Technologies has tested its robots in more than 100 cities in 20 different countries. They’ve rolled 350,000 miles, crossed 4 million streets, and made over 100,000 deliveries. The robot uses a bank of cameras inside its Cylon-like visor to scan the world and identify objects.
Starship Technologies says it has secured $40 million through series-A funding to get the new rollout going. The deployment has already started at George Mason University and the University of Northern Arizona, and it will expand to the University of Pittsburgh and the Purdue University in Indiana in September. Starship plans to have between 25 and 50 robots active on each campus within two years. Therefore, it could have a fleet of more than 5,000 delivery bots visiting dorm rooms by 2021.
Starship Technologies is interested in college campuses for several reasons. First, there are a lot of people living in a small space who are likely to order items online. The robots have a top speed of 4 miles per hour, so they won’t cover a lot of ground, but they can haul 20 pounds of cargo. A single robot could make several deliveries around campus in a short time. Colleges also have plenty of walking paths with well-defined boundaries and pedestrian traffic. That’s an ideal environment to improve the autonomous driving technology.
Customers can use Starship Technologies to get groceries, meals, packages, and more. It just costs $1.99 per order, much less than similar outfits that use people to deliver orders. Starship Technologies thinks this approach will appeal to students who don’t want to inconvenience a real person to bring them some random item. Although, the robots won’t be able to come to the door like a human. They can roll up curbs, but steps are a no-go. Starship CEO Lex Bayer thinks buildings may eventually build ramps and doors specifically for delivery robots, but we’re a long way from that.