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Sodexo and Starship launch food delivery robots for US students

A new partnership between food services group Sodexo and autonomous delivery company Starship Technologies means US students can receive pizza, coffee and doughnuts via robot delivery.

Thanks to a the new agreement, those studying and working at George Mason University's Fairfax, Virginia, can now use the Starship Deliveries app to order food and drinks to be delivered anywhere on their campus, within minutes.

Blaze Pizza, Starbucks, and Dunkin' and 2nd Stop, a Sodexo-branded campus grocery store, are the first retailers to be involved in the service offering, but additional brands and retailers will be available on the app in the coming weeks.

Each on-demand delivery costs $1.99, and with a fleet of more than 25 robots at launch, this initiative has been described by those involved as 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," explained 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 prompt a delivery, app users scroll through the menu options, then drop a pin where they want their items to be sent. They can then monitor the robot’s journey via the app map as it autonomously makes its way to them.

Once the robot has arrived at the chosen destination, customers receive an alert, before making their way to the robot and unlocking the order via the app. Each robot can carry up to 20lbs of goods.

"College students understand the benefits of technology on campus and expect it to be integrated into their daily lives," noted Ryan Tuohy, senior vice president of business development at Starship.

Sodexo and Starship plan to expand the programme to additional campus locations around the world in the future.

"University dining programmes are evolving their strategies to meet this generation's elevated expectations, such as better quality, variety and service delivery," said Jim Jenkins, CEO for Universities East at Sodexo North America.

"George Mason University's culture of innovation and early adoption makes it the perfect campus for Sodexo and Starship to introduce this cutting-edge technology and enhance the campus experience for the entire school community."

Starship is currently working with the likes of Tesco and Co-op Food on autonomous delivery trials in the UK, fulfilling online purchases from these retailers’ stores in Milton Keynes.

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