Starship robots target autonomous campus delivery

Starship Technologies, the company behind the UK’s first autonomous delivery trials, is aiming to roll out its robots across academic and corporate campuses in Europe and the US.

Equipped with nine cameras, GPS and a sensor suite, Starship’s six-wheeled robots travel on footpaths at around 4 mph, giving way to pedestrians and tackling kerbs when encountered. The bots are designed to operate within a 2-3 mile radius, mapping their surroundings using proprietary software and gaining more autonomy as they become familiar with their environments. Under normal circumstances, while travelling on pathways, their situational awareness ‘bubble’ extends to about 7-10 metres.

“That increases when (the robot) is crossing the road,” Starship’s marketing VP, Henry Harris-Burland, previously told The Engineer. “It can see up to 200m away, because that’s obviously one of the most dangerous areas of the robot’s journey.”

So far, Starship has focused on last-mile delivery of food and parcels, teaming with commercial partners such as Just Eat and Hermes in the UK. Other trials have taken place in the US, Germany, Switzerland and Estonia, with the robots clocking up over 100,000 miles in more than 100 cities. But now the company is looking beyond residential neighbourhoods, seeing company and college campuses as fertile ground for expansion.

Autonomous delivery robots hit London

At Intuit’s Mountain View campus in Silicon Valley, workers can order food and drink via the Starship app for delivery throughout the day across all 4.3 acres of the site. On average, robots take 17 minutes to deliver food, coffee or snacks on the campus, theoretically giving people more time to be productive or enjoy breaks instead of queueing.

“We’ve partnered with Compass Group on the Intuit Mountain View campus in the US to provide accessible, convenient and sustainable robotic delivery,” said Starship CEO and Skype co-founder, Ahti Heinla. “After a successful start to the year and great reception to our robots, we are planning to dramatically expand our services and distribute thousands of robots across campuses around the world by 2019.”

While the video above shows the service operating smoothly across Intuit’s Silicon Valley site, it remains to be seen if the robots would remain unscathed if deployed on a rowdy college campus.

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