Kiwibot and Sodexo Partner To Launch Robotic Food Delivery on College Campuses

Kimberly Redmond  |

Video source: YouTube, KVIA ABC-7

Robotic sidewalk delivery startup Kiwibot is bringing its semi-autonomous rovers to US college campuses through a new partnership with food services and facility management company Sodexo North America, a unit of French conglomerate Sodexo SA (OTC:  SDXAY). 

Starting this month, students and faculty at New Mexico State University, Loyola Marymount University and Gonzaga University will have the option of ordering fresh meals delivered via insulated, remote-controlled robots from Sodexo-serviced locations on campuses, the companies announced Monday.

The program will eventually be rolled out to the hundreds of colleges across the US that provide its cafeteria and dining hall services through Sodexo, the companies said.

The robots, which stand at less than knee-height and move at about two miles per hour, were first tested at the University of California-Berkeley, where they successfully completed more than 150,000 deliveries.

On Tuesday, Diego Varela Prada, Kiwibot’s chief operating officer, told TechCrunch, “We are starting with 10 bots in Loyola, 10 bots in Gonzaga and 30 bots in the state of New Mexico, and that’s just the beginning. We hope to have many more. As a B2B company, we can work closely with our partner to increase bot capacity as demand increases.“  

In addition to its college campus program, Kiwibot also has rovers making deliveries in San Jose, Santa Monica, Dallas and Miami, as well as Taipei and Medellín to those who use local Shopify-powered portals.

The company has forged several partnerships, including a deal with Chick-Fil-A to test robot delivery at three of the chicken sandwich chain’s locations in Southern California.

Now in their fourth generation, Kiwibot robots are at a level 3 of autonomy, which means they can handle driving alone, but a human operator may be required to take over if a problem occurs. 

Prada told TechCrunch that its engineers are working to advance the bot to level 4, which would make it 100% autonomous.

Kiwibot is also focused on getting robots to navigate between inside and outside environments so they can pick up orders in a kitchen, venture outside and then navigate inside a building to deliver it.

In recent years, several other companies, such as Postmates, Nuro and Starship Technologies, have started to test robotic deliveries in trials and smaller rollouts.

Following the pandemic-related surge in food delivery business over the past year, many platforms, including GrubHub Inc and DoorDash Inc, have announced plans to automate part of their operations. Besides providing a manner for food to arrive safely and contact-free, using a robot or drone could be a way to cut labor costs and make delivery profitable, The Wall Street Journal noted.

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