Kiwibot partners with hospitality giant Sodexo to bring food delivery robots to more college campuses ' TechCrunch

Kiwibot, a robotic sidewalk delivery startup has announced a partnership to bring its robots on college campuses in the United States. Students and faculty at Gonzaga University, Loyola Marymount University, and New Mexico State University will now have the ability to order fresh food via adorable robots located in Sodexo-serviced areas on campus.Kiwibot has been delivering food to college students who are tired, over-caffeinated and hungover for many years. The robots are cute and can travel at two miles an hour. They were created at the University of Berkeley in California. The company was able make 150,000 deliveries there and proved its worth to expand to other campuses like Stanford University and University of Denver.Sodexo supplies the food for hundreds of colleges in the U.S. so this partnership could be hugely beneficial for Kiwibot. Starship Technologies, its main competitor, completed one million deliveries in January. Starship Technologies also operates on many college campuses.Startups in autonomous development often choose campuses as a natural option. According to Diego Varela Prada (chief operating officer at Kiwibot), universities are open to new ideas and the potential for revenue growth is better than working in a city.Prada explained to TechCrunch that university campuses offer an advantage because they are more managed than public streets, in terms of traffic congestion and public infrastructure complexity.Students will be able use their meal plans to order Kiwibot delivery via their Sodexo Bite+ application. For those who do not have a meal plan, they can order a la carte for $2 plus 10%.Prada said that we started with 10 bots from Loyola and 10 at Gonzaga, and that's only the beginning. We hope to add more. We were able to collaborate closely with our B2B partner to increase the bots' capacity as the demand increases.Many college campuses were shut down last year due to the pandemic. As school resumes, the U.S. has the highest number of cases since February. It is currently experiencing around 100,000 new cases per day. It's impossible to predict what kind of lockdowns and shutdowns we will see this year on college campuses, but Prada sees Kiwibot as a way for students to order food securely.He said that we have a process to disinfect the bots after each order. It is safer for students to order food through Kiwibot, and have it delivered directly to their dorms or library.Prada claims that the fourth-generation Kiwibots robots are moving towards Level 4 autonomy. However, they are still at Level 3. Prada says that the Kiwibots robots, which are in their fourth generation, are moving to Level 4. However, Level 3 requires a human operator to fix any issues. A Level 4 system will handle all driving.Prada said that we have a corner-to-corner feature. This captures data from an indoor area and feeds it into an algorithm that makes decisions for the robot. It manages navigation for the robot between complex situations like cars, people and pets. We are not yet able to allow the bot to roam the campus by itself. Remote operators can switch from corner-to-corner if they sense a street crossing. The supervisor or remote operator will then take control.Kiwibot engineers are currently working to get a bot that can navigate indoor-to–outdoor and outside-to–indoor. This will allow it to pick up orders from a kitchen and deliver them outside. Then it can navigate inside buildings to deliver the order to someone's room or desk.