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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Food delivery robots can now be seen on the north end of campus, delivering dining hall food to students, faculty and staff.

UW-Madison Housing and Dining Services implement food delivery robots

UW-Madison Housing and Dining implemented a new autonomous food delivery system on campus last week — robots.

Over the summer, the university partnered with Starship Technologies, gaining access to a fleet of 30 robots that will deliver food directly to students, faculty and staff. 

The Starship Deliveries app allows you to order items from three dining halls on campus: Carson’s Market, Four Lakes Market and Liz’s Market. The app allows its users to track the robot as they make their delivery. Once the robot has arrived, the user will receive a password that will allow them to unlock the robot and retrieve their order.

So far, the robots only serve the north end of campus, but the university hopes to expand to the rest of campus soon. In the foreseeable future, these robots will not venture off campus, according to the university. 

Right now, the cost of delivery is $1.99 plus the cost of whatever food that was ordered with a credit or debit card, paid through the app. However, in the coming weeks users will be able to pay with Wiscard, allowing students to utilize dining funds.

The robots are programmed with sophisticated machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensors to navigate their environment. Although the robots are automated, there are humans that can take control if something goes wrong.

UW-Madison is the biggest U.S. campus that Starship has implemented their technology.

In June of 2017, former Gov. Scott Walker passed a bill classifying these autonomous robots as vehicles, meaning they are subject to regulation in the state of Wisconsin. The bill also outlined the rules and regulations of the robots’ speed and weight, as well as where they can go: sidewalks and crosswalks only. 

Starship Technologies pushed for this legislation in order to implement their robots on Wisconsin college campuses after testing them in European cities throughout 2017. 

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