Robotic Food Delivery Service Set to Begin at Wayne State in August

Starship Robots will be delivering food to Wayne State students, faculty, and staff beginning in August. // Courtesy of WSU
Starship Robots will be delivering food to Wayne State students, faculty, and staff beginning in August. // Courtesy of WSU

Starship Robots, an on-campus robotic food delivery service, will be available for Wayne State University students, faculty, and staff beginning in August.

Starship operates in more than 20 campuses across the United States and WSU it its first touchdown in Michigan.

Since launching in 2013, Starship robots have made more than 3 million autonomous deliveries and traveled millions of miles in countries around the globe.

“We are very excited to welcome Starship to WSU this fall,” says Tim Michael, associate vice president for student auxiliary services. “Our dining partner Aramark brought us this concept in the spring, and we had a Starship demonstration on campus on April 1. We believe having Starship on campus will be a great way to add delivery services for campus food retail in a fun, new way.”

Starship will be based in the Grubhub application and customers won’t need a separate phone app as they do currently on other campuses. To get started, users choose their food or drink items, and drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. They can watch on an interactive map as the robot makes its journey to them. Once the robot arrives, they receive an alert and can meet and unlock it through the app. Delivery is usually just a matter of minutes, depending on the items ordered and the distance the robot must travel.

The primary food service providers who will use the robots at the start of the fall semester will be those through WSU Dining Services such as Subway, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Tenders Love Chicken, Panda Express, and Midtown Market.

“We will invite our other private food service partner locations on campus such as those along Anthony Wayne Drive to also join the program after our Starships are up and running smoothly,” Michael says. “The goals of Starship delivery are to increase choice and convenience for the campus community while also driving sales to support all our campus food service partners.”

Starship is programmed to fully comply with traffic regulations and are supervised by a remote human operator who can intervene as needed in the autonomous operation of the robots. The WSU Starship “spaceport” will be in the former Dunkin Donuts location on Anthony Wayne Drive, where the robots will dock every night for maintenance and recharging.

Starship will be hiring a WSU-based crew to operate and maintain the university’s fleet of 15, which Michael said will provide employment options for interested WSU students.

The Starship Robots can identify objects in their vicinity and make the necessary course corrections to avoid them. When an object is adjacent to the robot, but not in front of it, the robot reduces its speed. When an object is in front of the robot, the robot will come to a complete stop.

“Everyone at Wayne State — C&IT, Student Senate, Risk Management, Office of General Counsel — are on board, as is the city of Detroit,” Michael says. “It’s been an amazingly easy process to get everyone excited about this cool, new food delivery service at WSU.”