Crossing city streets filled with SUV drivers in a hurry is tricky for any pedestrian, but what about a robot that’s less than two feet tall? Starship Technologies is flooding college towns with autonomous electric delivery bots that trundle goods to your location in their locked storage compartment. While the safety of human pedestrians around large vehicles with autonomous capabilities is still being debated, this time, the roles were reversed. As shown in a video posted to TikTok by rach,ipsa, even a couple of lights plus cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors, and neural networks weren’t enough for this robot to avoid getting clipped by a Ford Escape.
In the robot’s defense, it appears to have had the right of way. This video was captured at the University of Kentucky, one of the four schools Starship Technologies said it’s expanding to this fall. Combine unfamiliar robots with students and faculty who have probably been away from campus for more than a year, and it feels inevitable that there would be a dust-up eventually.
While the delivery bot could retreat onto the sidewalk despite a busted wheel or two, it’s unclear if the vehicle it collided with took any damage. Insurance companies aren’t always the easiest to deal with, and it’s hard to imagine they’re prepared to respond when someone runs into a robot. Last September, a Frisco, TX woman said a Starship robot hit her car at a stoplight, doing $2,600 in damage. As reported by NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, she learned Starship had video of the incident, but she couldn’t obtain a copy or get additional responses.
Her insurance company initially insisted she was responsible for paying the deductible; however, after the media outlet contacted Starship Technologies, the robot operators reportedly paid for the repairs. Starship Technologies did not respond to requests for comment about the incident or the status of the robot. Still, for our robot friend, things could’ve been worse — at Purdue University, one of them got smushed by a garbage truck coming out of an alley.