MADISON, Wis. — For more than two years now, 35 autonomous robots have been rolling around the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus delivering food to more than 65,000 students, faculty members and staff.

They’re busy little bots delivering hundreds and hundreds of food orders every day, and that number has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The Starship robots not only offer convenience; they also provide users a level of safety during the pandemic.

“It has allowed students, faculty or staff that want to remain at their location, in their room, in their offices, whatever the case may be to do that and to still have hot food brought to them on a regular basis,” Peter Testory, the director of dining and culinary services on campus, said.

San Francisco-based Starship Enterprises owns the robots and collects the $1.99 delivery fee. The company has three full-time employees on the Madison campus who maintain the machines and help them out if they get lost or stuck in the snow.

Speaking of snow, the robots are fitted with snow tires in the winter and can operate as long as the sidewalks are plowed.

“If one tips over, students put them back up,” Testory said. “During Halloween, we have students that dress up like them.”

FROM 2019: UW-Madison housing launches robot delivery service

Skeptical at first, the campus has embraced the little robots.

“We regularly get calls from people that are concerned that someone is stealing a robot or doing something they shouldn’t be doing to it. So, students on campus most certainly look out for them and help them out if they need help. It’s almost as the campus pet,” Testory said.

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