Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

College students may soon have to share their campus sidewalks with thousands of 6-wheeled robots ready to deliver their dinners.

Driving the news: Food delivery company Starship Technologies announced plans in late August to deploy cooler-sized, self-driving robots to 100 U.S. college campuses by 2022.

The big picture: Even though autonomous food delivery is still a developing concept, Starship is targeting college campuses, where students typically have little kitchen access beyond mini-fridges and microwaves. Demand for food delivery is high, and how the food is delivered is of less importance.

Starship plans to deploy 25–50 robots per school within the next 2 years, meaning as many as 5,000 robots could be moseying around campus grounds by 2021. They're already making deliveries at George Mason University and Northern Arizona University. And they're set to deploy at Purdue University in Indiana after Labor Day. Next up: the University of Pittsburgh.

Where it stands: Delivery sidewalk bots in metropolitan areas have encountered regulatory hurdles in the past. San Francisco temporarily banned them in 2017, only again issuing permits this year.

  • Starship’s college-town fleets can bypass typical regulatory roadblocks from city councils. With a university's permission, vehicle startups can run on campus sidewalks and streets. 
  • Testing the robots in a college environment gives companies data to navigate other, more dangerous settings like high-volume street crossings.

Our thought bubble via Axios' emerging technology reporter Kaveh Waddell, "Campuses are often pedestrian-oriented, which can make car deliveries difficult. But sidewalks can also become busy and chaotic, which can make life hard for a robot."

What they're doing: Several companies, including Amazon, have invested in and experimented with these small-wheeled robots in the streets.

  • San Francisco gave Postmates a permit in August to test its delivery robots, TechCrunch reports.
  • Berkeley-based company Kiwi launched its own miniature robot in 2018 for UC Berkeley students.
  • Amazon rolled out its sidewalk bot in January, by which Prime members could have food delivered. It is currently testing bots by simulation and on sidewalks in Seattle, according to TechCrunch.
  • Domino’s will test custom driverless carriers for pizza deliveries in Houston later this year.

Yes, but: Food service jobs are a staple in college towns. 43% of students in college full-time had a job in 2017. The number nearly doubled for part-time students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Growing fleets of sidewalk robots could disrupt a workforce dependent on relieving college tuition and living expenses.

The bottom line: As long as the market for food delivery continues to boom, the nascent autonomous food delivery business only has room to grow.

Watch: Click here for an amusing student reaction.

Editor's note: This piece was corrected to show deliveries have started at Northern Arizona University (not University of Northern Arizona).

Go deeper

U.S. ambassador to Russia will return home briefly: State Department

John Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during a briefing in Moscow in 2015. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The State Department said Monday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, will now be returning to the United States this week before returning to Moscow "in the coming weeks."

Why this matters: The statement, from a State Department spokesperson, comes just hours after Axios reported that Sullivan had indicated he intended to stand his ground and stay in Russia after the Kremlin “advised” him to return home to talk with his team.

Scoop: Leaked Ukraine memo reveals scope of Russia's aggression

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a military exposition in Sevastopol, Crimea, in Jan. 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia has been holding last-minute military exercises near commercial shipping lanes in the Black Sea that threaten to strangle Ukraine's economy, according to an internal document from Ukraine's ministry of defense reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: With the eyes of the world on the massive buildup of troops in eastern Ukraine, the leaked memo shows Russian forces escalating their presence on all sides of the Ukrainian border.

Elon Musk: Autopilot feature wasn't enabled in fatal Texas crash

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Monday that "data logs recovered so far" show the car's Autopilot feature was not enabled — and it did not have access to "full self-driving mode" — in the deadly crash in Texas involving the company's electric vehicle.

Background: Local investigators said they believed the car was operating without anyone in the driver's seat. At the time of death, one man was in the passenger seat, while another was in the rear seat, KPRC 2 reports.