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Robots will deliver pizza, more to these college students as part of their meal plans

Robots are being used on some college campuses to deliver food to students.
Robots are being used on some college campuses to deliver food to students. Instagram screen grab

The future has arrived. And it will bring pizza, doughnuts, drinks and more to college students at a Virginia university, according to a news release from Starship Technologies.

A line of robots launched by Starship and Sodexo will deliver food to students at George Mason University, the news release said.

Thousands of students at the Fairfax, Va. university can use their meal plans to have food delivered to their doors — by the robots, the Washington Post reported.

For a $1.99 charge, the fleet of more than 25 robots will deliver the students menu items from Blaze Pizza, Starbucks, and Dunkin’ , and more restaurants are expected to participate in the program, according to the news release.

In addition to their meal plan, students need to use an app to place their order and determine where it will be delivered, the companies explain in the news release. Just like GPS, students can monitor the delivery’s journey, and will receive an alert when the order has arrived at its destination, according to the news release.

Students will have to use the app again to unlock the robot, which Starship and Sodexo said will usually make deliveries in “15 minutes or less.”

The robots are “surprisingly quick” and travel at close to 4 mph, according to CBS.

The six-wheeled robots can carry up to 20 pounds, and can “drive themselves on sidewalks, over curbs, and operate in rain or snow and at night,” The Verge reported.

The robots are autonomous, but people are monitoring them and can manually override the controls “at any time,” per the news release.

“Being able to get food delivered to me within minutes is going to be fun and convenient,” George Mason student Jenna Dayton said in the news release. “The lines can get long in between classes, and once you get a table at the library, you don’t want to give it up. Not only will this make my life easier as a student, but I’m going to get a visit from a robot!”

When asked if anyone can just pop open the robot and steal the food being delivered, one George Mason student explained the difficulties making that unlikely on Instagram.

“They’re electronically locked, if you want to take it you gotta pick up this heavy bot and cut into it,” the student posted.

The robots are just a way to improve the quality of life for students at George Mason, according to the news release.

“Students and teachers have little free time as it is, so there is a convenience for them to have their food, groceries and packages delivered to them,” Starship senior vice president of business development Ryan Tuohy said in the news release. “Our goal is to make life easier, whether that means skipping the line, eating lunch on the lawn rather than in the cafe, or finding the time to eat better when studying for exams. Commuters can even meet the robot on their way into class.”

Delivery companies DoorDash and Postmates have already used the robots in test programs, cnet.com reported.

Another company, Kiwi, has employed similar robots on the campus of University of California at Berkeley, but one caught on fire in December, per The Verge.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.

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