AUSTIN, Texas - Two robots are using artificial intelligence to travel UT Austin’s campus delivering free lemonade to students, faculty, and staff this week.
Those with UT email addresses can order lemonade delivery on campus via robot using the Botler app.
Dr. Junfeng Jiao, an associate professor with the university’s school of architecture, says researchers were working to come up with ways to “reduce contact between deliveries” during the pandemic.
The project is part of the “Good System Grand Challenge” for responsible artificial intelligence. Dr. Jiao chairs the program and says the ultimate goal of this project is to solve the first and last-mile delivery problem.
He hopes these robots can eventually be used to reduce air pollution by replacing short vehicle trips, like drives from a warehouse to a home or from a home to a post office. He says the robots will be “able to significantly cut down on CO2 or greenhouse emission.”
Earlier this year, an analysis of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality data by the Capital Area Council of Governments found some air pollutants including carbon monoxide rose in Central Texas during the lockdown in March.
“Of all the pollutants, that’s the one that’s most affected by transportation emissions.” CAPCOG’s Andrew Hoekzema told FOX 7 Austin in October.
Researchers are looking to see if the spike could have been caused by an increase in delivery vehicles.
“The first and the last mile delivery is the most expensive, the least efficient, and the most intensive task in the whole delivery chain,” said Jiang.
The robots are approximately $40,000 each. They are accompanied by a “safety driver” at all times. “We take good care of our robot baby,” Jiang laughed.
This "test run" takes place from November 16 to November 20.