Prepare yourself to see even more delivery bots in the wild

As demand for delivery increases, the more likely it is that you'll see the little robots driving around.

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woman receiving starship robot delivery
Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP (Getty Images)

If you’re in a college town, your delivery drivers might stop looking human and start looking more like cute little wheeled bots tooling around campus. Hopefully wearing little tiny backpacks.

We’ve previously written about robot delivery services on college campuses, but ABC News reports that these fleets are getting bigger, and due to increasing staff shortages and preferences for contactless deliveries, these fleets will only continue to grow.

CEO of Estonia-based Starship Technologies, Alastair Westgarth, says, “We saw demand for robot usage just go through the ceiling. I think demand was always there, but it was brought forward by the pandemic effect.” The company recently celebrated its two millionth delivery. Two millionth.

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Starship is already operating on 20 U.S. campuses, with 25 more in the works. That means hundreds of bots will be added to its 1,000 plus fleet. Not every city is embracing them, however. Cities like New York and San Francisco aren’t interested. The sidewalks are too crowded, and I can’t imagine people would be patient enough to deal with rolling takeout orders scooting beneath their feet. But some cities are game; there’s a Starship presence in Takeout home base Chicago, on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Starship robots vary in shape and design, but they use the same technology to navigate around, like laser scanners, cameras, GPS, and sensors. There’s always a remote operator working with multiple robots, but for the most part, they take care of themselves, even crossing streets. They don’t zip around too quickly; at five miles per hour, they’re not exactly moving as fast as Ferraris. When the robot arrives at its destination, its contents are unlocked by typing in a code through the recipients phone.

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Of course, there are growing rivals in the bot delivery space, like Kiwibot, which has headquarters in both Medellin, Colombia, and Los Angeles. Their fleet is 400 big, also on college campuses along with the downtown Miami area. And we’ve mentioned this before, but even Domino’s has partnered with a robot delivery service, called Nuro, starting in Houston. I’m sure I’d be happy to see a robo-pizza bot wandering around. I wonder if they charge extra for selfies.

It’s hard not to wonder whether or not they’d get stolen, stomped on, or vandalized, though. Have any of you gotten your food delivered by a robot? If so, how was the experience? I’m curious.