“Hello, I’m a Starship Delivery Robot,” the robot said in greeting.
The new six-wheeled Starship Delivery Robots are operating on the Bowling Green State University campus.
This robot was seen motoring Thursday morning along the sidewalk on the south side of East Wooster Street across from McFall Center and Founders Hall.
When approached, the robot turned around and made the greeting.
According to the Starship Technologies website, the robots are designed to deliver packages that include both food and groceries.
“BGSU is excited to be preparing to launch robotic food delivery service on our Bowling Green campus,” a BGSU representative wrote in a prepared statement. “The Starship Robots are currently mapping the campus in preparation. We’ll be providing more information and arranging media interviews closer to the launch date. Stay tuned.”
A representative from Starship Technologies confirmed the current mapping process status.
The website calls the robots autonomous vehicles.
“They drive autonomously but are monitored by humans who can take control at any time,” according to the Starship Technologies website.
The company has been targeting universities for food deliveries and claimed in August to have made 100,000 commercial deliveries. Stated goals include expanding “service to 100 university campuses in the next 24 months.”
Bowling Green Police Division Lt. Dan Mancuso said the police were unaware of the mini-autonomous vehicles.
“Really, that’s interesting,” Mancuso said. “I will have to get back with you because I don’t know that we have a policy on autonomous vehicles. This is the first I’m hearing of it.”
The one photographed on Wooster Street was on the south side, which is city property.
“There are no plans for the robots to deliver off campus,” said Dave Kielmeyer, chief marketing and communications officer. “It was on that side of the street for mapping purposes.”
BGSU Police Chief Mike Campbell said that Thursday was day two of a three-day mapping process and he thought there might be three units on campus.
“These particular ones were just on campus to map the travel routes, like the sidewalks, buildings and those kinds of things, so the technology itself will work properly. This is a preliminary step,” Campbell said.
Campbell was asked if the cameras would be recording, once the robots were rolled out, and if the department had been given any training on how to work with or interact with the robots.
“There are nine cameras that are collecting data,” Campbell said. “Literally, what you saw yesterday was the first time they had been there. I have not personally interacted with them. Once I was aware they were on campus, I sent (officers) information about the project and about this particular technology, just so they were aware. So, if they saw them around, they would know what it was.”
The city police were less informed.
“We don’t have a policy to deal with autonomous vehicles at this time because we have not had to deal with them in the past. We understand that they will only be on campus, but they will still cross the roads, driveways and entrances to parking lots and buildings. I don’t understand how they will be crossing the road,” Mancuso said. “This is the first we are getting any information, from (the Sentinel-Tribune). We will have to be fluid in responding to any incidents and developing procedures in handling these in the future.”
Mancuso has a number of questions he will be discussing with Police Chief Tony Hetrick.
“On our side, is it going to cross the street? How does it do that? What if a pedestrian or a bike is coming? Where do they start from and where do they end? If it gets stolen, how do we recover it? What if someone vandalizes it?” Mancuso said.
Campbell said he expected the delivery to be popular on campus
“I’m sure there will be a few challenges that pop up, especially when you have this kind of technology. I’m excited to see the university introduce it. I’m sure it’s something that will appeal to the campus community as a method of food delivery,” Campbell said.
Starship Technologies was founded by two Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis.