Food, grocery delivery robots slated to launch soon in Frisco

Starship Technologies offered its robot delivery service at The University of Texas at Dallas this school year. (Courtesy Liz Wigglesworth)
Starship Technologies offered its robot delivery service at The University of Texas at Dallas this school year. (Courtesy Liz Wigglesworth)

Starship Technologies offered its robot delivery service at The University of Texas at Dallas this school year. (Courtesy Liz Wigglesworth)

Image description
The Starship robots travel autonomously in premapped areas using a combination of computer vision and GPS. (Courtesy Starship Technologies)
Frisco residents could soon have food and groceries delivered by autonomous robots.

Starship Technologies presented information during the Frisco City Council's work session May 5 on the company’s plans to contract with several local merchants to offer deliveries through its robots.

“We've identified the intersection around Main and Teel [streets] as probably where we're going to start,” Starship Director of Sales Robert Buehler said. “Vendors that have expressed interest include Fuzzy’s Tacos, Kpop Burger, Hareli Fresh Market, Kroger, Chicken Express [and] Hurts Donut—those sorts of restaurants and grocers in that area.”

Buehler said Starship Technologies was started in 2014 by the founders of the digital technology app Skype. About 100 engineers are working on the delivery robot project, which has done more than 150,000 deliveries, he said.

“Our focus for the last couple years has been deploying this at universities,” Buehler said, noting the service is offered at The University of Texas at Dallas. “With the pandemic, a lot of campuses have emptied out of students. So we have accelerated our long-term plans, which is to offer neighborhood deliveries.”


To use the delivery service, Buehler said consumers will order and pay through a mobile app overseen by Starship Technologies. The orders are then sent to the merchant, who loads the purchases into the robot's compartment. Buehler said the robot would drive to the consumer's location indicated on the app’s map, similar to how the Uber app works.

Buehler said the robot provides a contactless delivery system, which he noted is an important element during the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

“Every person that can stay at home and order a delivery via this robot is staying out of the store, staying out of the restaurant, and preventing unnecessary interactions with those frontline workers,” Buehler said.

The robots generally operate on sidewalks but are able to cross streets, he said.

“It is 99% autonomous, but there are always human robot operators in the loop that can address any unexpected instances as it’s making its trip,” Buehler said.

The robots use a 3-D mapping technology and are equipped with cameras, time of flight sensors, radars and ultrasonics, according to Buehler. “Those are designed to see the world around the robot and make sure it's very safe when it's traveling in crowded areas.”

The robots have a maximum speed of about 4 mph, weigh about 60 pounds unloaded and can carry 25 pounds, he said. The robots currently deliver within a three-mile radius to areas that have been pre-mapped, according to the company's website.

“If there was a catastrophic failure of every sensor, and it actually bumped into someone's leg, it's going to do that with the force of 36 joules, which is the force required to break open an egg,” Buehler said.

City staff said they are still working through some technical logistics with Starship Technologies. A date for the technology’s deployment will be announced in the next few weeks, staff said. Citizens may see Buehler and the robots around town before the launch, council was told, as the company is currently doing GIS mapping for the service.

Mayor Jeff Cheney said the city is looking forward to seeing the robots delivering goods in the community.

“Frisco likes to be known for innovation, especially when it comes to transportation and technologies,” Cheney said. “We know this is the future of where things are going here in Frisco, and so we definitely want to be on the leading edge of that.”
By William C. Wadsack
William C. Wadsack is editor of the Frisco edition of Community Impact Newspaper. He previously served as managing editor of several daily and weekly publications in North Texas and his native state of Louisiana before joining Community Impact Newspaper in 2019.


MOST RECENT

Community member and former U.S. House Rep. Sam Johnson died May 27 in Plano at the age of 89. (David Downs/David Downs Photography)
Sam Johnson, former prisoner of war and Collin County-area congressman, dies at 89

Sam Johnson, a former prisoner of war who represented Collin County communities for nearly three decades in Congress, died May 27 in Plano.

Health officials in Collin County confirmed one new case of COVID-19 in Frisco on May 28. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Collin County reports 1 new COVID-19 case in Frisco

Data released by the city shows the number of active cases of COVID-19 as of May 28 in Frisco was 38.

Normally crowded toll roads are experiencing a decline in the number of motorists, according to data from the North Texas Tollway Authority. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
North Texas Tollway Authority develops plan to mitigate unprecedented loss of revenue

Money-saving tactics include an indefinite hiring freeze and the delay of some projects, according to a spokesperson.

Outdoor venues in all Texas counties will be permitted to operate at up to 25% capacity starting May 31. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Spectators to be welcomed back to Texas outdoor sporting events May 31 at 25% of venue capacity

Venue owners must operate under guidelines that facilitate appropriate social distancing.

Tuesday Morning plans to close 230 of its 687 stores in a phased approach. (Anna Lotz/Community Impact Newspaper)
Development news and other top stories from this week in DFW

Read the most popular stories so far this week from Community Impact Newspaper's Dallas-Fort Worth coverage.

Each eligible child will receive $285 in benefits. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Some Texas students eligible for one-time federal benefit to aid with food purchases

Texas received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide more than $1 billion in pandemic food benefits.

Here is the latest coronavirus update from Collin and Denton counties. (Community Impact staff)
Five new Frisco cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Collin, Denton counties

Data shows that there are 33 active cases of COVID-19 in Frisco as of May 27.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar spoke to members of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce on May 27 about what the state's post-pandemic economic turnaround might look like. (Screenshot of May 27 virtual luncheon)
Texas comptroller predicts slow, steady economic turnaround post-pandemic

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said the state entered the era of the coronavirus in a healthy financial situation, which bodes well for the future as reopening continues, but that Texans are not out of the woods yet.

Nursing facilities across Texas will be able to apply for federal funds to purchase devices to connect residents to friends and family. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Gov. Greg Abbott announces $3.6 million project to connect nursing home residents to families

Gov. Greg Abbott announced May 27 that $3.6 million will be provided to nursing facilities to purchase tablets, webcams and headphones to connect residents with family members.

Several cities in the Dallas area have joined The North Texas Innovation Alliance. (Courtesy Justin Terveen)
North Texas cities join regional alliance aimed at advancing innovation

The North Texas Innovation Alliance comprises 21 founding members, including Richardson, Frisco, Plano and McKinney, among others.

A special meeting of the Commissioners Court will take place May 29 to for a discussion and possible action on continued case management. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Collin County delays shift to state reporting on coronavirus cases

Collin County has postponed shifting its coronavirus case management to the Texas Department of State Health Services, according to a May 26 update from County Judge Chris Hill.