Are Robots the Future of Food Delivery?

You’ve heard of contactless delivery as a means of reducing the spread of COVID-19. However, some people are still concerned that their delivery drivers come in contact with other people while outside or even the possibility of the drivers themselves being infected, and passing the disease onto their order.

Although COVID-19 isn’t food-borne and cannot survive for long on inanimate surfaces, people are still working to find creative solutions to people’s fears. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, they’ve begun using technology to stay safe by introducing delivery robots.

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Essential employees have stayed on campus to perform their necessary duties for the couple hundred students still residing there. With one dining hall left open, the university found a creative way to prevent large gatherings during mealtimes without banning students from the dining hall entirely and requiring them to order food. Many dorms lack a common kitchen and traditional delivery is often expensive, which would be a huge burden particularly on college students.

Now, those still on campus can order dining hall food directly to their doors with the help of the university’s fleet of autonomous robots. Whereas delivery typically requires a driver to meet with both the cooks and the customers, robots eliminate human contact during this process.

Students can order from a specially designed app that lets them drop a pin to where they want their food sent. They can even track the robot’s progress across campus to better predict when their order will arrive. These robots can carry up to 20 pounds, which ensures students can get as much food as they need at once without ever worrying about paying for multiple deliveries.

Even the delivery fee is cheaper than most third party platforms. Students only pay approximately $2 for delivery and they can use their campus meal card the same as they would when visiting the dining hall in person. All this makes robot delivery an even more attractive option for students.

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The University of Wisconsin-Madison actually implemented this technology in the autumn of 2019 to give students additional on-campus dining options, especially useful for those with disabilities which might make traveling to the dining hall difficult. The fact that these measures were already in place has made it easier for the university to adapt to the COVID-19 shutdown and isolation measures.

Not only that, but now that we know the technology is there, the world at large can begin to implement similar measures. This would be an incredible step toward health and safety during this difficult time, but also has the potential to last long after the threat of COVID-19 passes. In all likelihood, post-quarantine society will continue to place a greater priority on combatting the spread of infection than ever before. Autonomous robots not only foster sanitation but reduce human error and overall have the capability to revolutionize how we think about delivery.

This is just one of many ways that the world has worked to reduce the risk of illness. University of Wisconsin-Michigan has ingeniously utilized technology during this pandemic, and hopefully innovators like them can lead us all into a safer, healthier future.

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