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College campus adopts autonomous grocery delivery

Students at Virginia’s George Mason University can have groceries delivered for $1.99 fee

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More than two dozen autonomous vehicles are now delivering groceries and other food items to students on George Mason University’s Fairfax, Va., campus.

Made possible through a partnership between foodservice company Sodexo and autonomous vehicle developer Starship Technologies, the new service delivers food to 40,000 students and faculty anywhere on campus for $1.99. The Starship Deliveries mobile app–which is both iOS- and Android-compatible–allows orders to be placed from campus grocer 2nd Stop, Blaze Pizza, Starbucks and Dunkin’. More partners will be revealed in the coming weeks.

The service, which works in conjunction with student meal plans, is intended to make food and beverages more accessible to ease the hectic lives of students and faculty. It’s said to be the largest implementation of autonomous-robot food-delivery services on a university campus.

“We’re excited that our students, faculty and staff get to be at the forefront of this pioneering campus food-delivery service,” said Mark Kraner, executive director for campus retail operations at George Mason University. “This will enhance life for everyone at the university, and that’s something we’re continuously looking to build upon.”

To use the technology, customers:

  • Open the Starship Deliveries app on their mobile device
    Choose from a range of food and beverage items
  • Drop a digital map pin on the screen where they want their delivery to be sent
  • Upon receiving an arrival alert, meet the robot and unlock it through the app
  • Retrieve their order

Each vehicle can carry up to 20 pounds, or roughly three shopping bags full of products, and is able to cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night, and operate in both rain and snow. Robots make their delivery in 15 minutes or less–depending on travel distance and items ordered–and are stored in pods located around campus.

A version of this article appeared at ProgressiveGrocer.com.

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