NTU Singapore student start-up builds robots for pandemic-proof delivery
A student start-up at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a fleet of self-driving robots that deliver in a smarter, greener and contactless manner, making it a safe option in a pandemic. Called the FoodBot, these four-wheeled electronically powered robots have delivered over 6,000 lunch and dinner orders on the NTU campus since June 2020 – when Singapore started Phase 1 of its exit from the circuit breaker. Its pilot is carried out with Cates, a food delivery mobile app developed by Wecome, another start-up that was incubated in NTU.
FoodBot is the brainchild of Whizz Mobility, a student start-up that grew out of the Renaissance Engineering Programme (REP), NTU’s flagship interdisciplinary undergraduate engineering programme. The first prototype was designed and built on the NTU Smart Campus, a living testbed of new technologies. Whizz Mobility now operates out of a maker’s space at the Launchpad @ Jurong Innovation District, which is located next to the NTU campus at CleanTech Park.
Each FoodBot is designed to carry a 50kg load. It travels at a safe speed of 5km/h – the average human pedestrian walking speed – on pre-mapped delivery routes. Its onboard cameras and algorithms developed by the REP students help it to navigate around people and objects.
The footage captured on the cameras is fed to the algorithms to constantly improve on their performance. A supervisory team at Whizz remotely monitors the camera feed in real time so they can take control of the robots’ movements where necessary, usually for safety reasons.
Whizz is now in talks with food and beverage partners on potential collaborations and is exploring the option of extending its delivery services to non-food partners, and working with more testbed partners, facilitators and aggregators.