Thursday, September 24, 2020

New Food Delivery Robots Generally Well Accepted After First Week

By Emily Dewitt
Hottytoddy.com intern
esdewitt@go.olemiss.edu

There is a new buzz around the Ole Miss campus this spring semester along with the sound of tiny wheels rotating throughout campus that has students excited and well-fed.

The start of the spring semester began with the addition of Starship Robots, an on-campus food delivery service, that helps relieve a bit of stress from hungry students by saving them from standing in long food lines.

Students said they are generally pleased with the food-delivering robots that have descended upon campus. Photo by Emily Dewitt.

The robots have been in action for about a week and they’ve invoked curiosity, awe and in a few cases, frustration since their arrival.

Morgan Daily, a junior at Ole Miss, said she uses them constantly since the fleet arrived on campus.

“I personally really like them. They are definitely a fun novelty, but as someone who lives on campus it is super convenient – especially when it’s cold out and I don’t want to leave the house,” Daily said.

She continued on about the stigma circling campus that the robots are creating a lazy environment for students.

“I get how people can think it’s lazy, but when I’m studying and want to eat, I can continue to work rather than go to the Union and become distracted,” Daily said. “It can be slow at times because it gets stuck at crosswalks, but it takes about the same time as a person delivering.”

According to a Starship spokesperson, the robots are meant to make students’ lives a little easier. Time is hard to come by in college and stress is always present, so they wanted to create something that would help both. These robots have traveled more than 350,000 miles and crossed more than 5 million roads while making more than 100,000 deliveries in several countries. Starship Technologies began in 2014 and was founded by Skype co-founders Janus Friis and Ahti Heinla.

“We are a company building a network of robots ready to serve you anytime, anywhere,” the Starship Technologies website states.

Campus seems to be embracing this innovation, but what about the competing delivery services? Cody Bryan, a DoorDash employee, said the robots have not affected his work at all.

“Doordash does not deliver food from campus to students. We only deliver food off-campus, to students,” Bryan said.

Hailey Rikard, another junior, had an interesting experience with the delivery service.

“I ordered Starbucks just for fun and it took over an hour to get my drink,” she said. “Someone had to get it for me because I had to go to class. My robot had also gotten lost so it took them forever to find it.”

Rikard said that although the robots aren’t perfect, she loved seeing them around campus and if she had enough time next time she would order from them again.

Freshman Sarah Ruffin said she was accidentally hit by one of the robots that are supposed to stop for pedestrians as she was walking.

“I was walking out of the Union down the steps, where they load the food into the robots, crossing the crosswalk towards the ROTC building and I went around the robot—that was already halfway in the street—to avoid being hit, but I guess it thought there was a car coming so it backed up really fast right into me,” Ruffin said. “I have a bruise on my leg and everything. It was just really weird.”

When asked about how to deal with any incidents like Ruffin’s, Kathy Tidwell, manager of contractual services and director of university licensing, commented on the university’s procedure used for these instances.

“All vendors for the University must have insurance,” Tidwell said. “The robots have cameras and GPS so Starship knows where they are at all times and they have a repair team on-site to correct problems.”