This fall, students from a few of the 250 colleges where Grubhub currently operates will be greeted by autonomous robots ready to traverse campuses and bring students their Grubhub orders without them ever having to leave their study room. On Tuesday, the company announced a partnership with the Russian tech giant Yandex that will allow them to bring six-wheeled autonomous delivery robots to college campuses.
For Grubhub, the inclusion of delivery robots seems like a natural progression and keen next-step in food delivery. Grubhub looked into delivery robots a few years ago but said that, at the time, the technology just was not there. After the pandemic, Grubhub and some of the colleges it served saw even more clearly the benefit of utilizing autonomous technology on campus.
As a delivery company, Grubhub’s greatest cost comes in paying its drivers. Often, there will be massive turnover in an area, and drivers cannot be expected to work constantly. Yandex’s robots, on the other hand, can operate in the day, night, rain, or shine. After testing them in Russia and Ann Arbor, Yandex is confident its delivery rovers will get the job done.
College campuses can be notoriously tricky to navigate. Besides the logistical challenge in housing, feeding, and educating thousands of students simultaneously, colleges often seek to ensure that students can get where they need to go without vehicular transport. While this is great for pedestrians, it can often mean incessant crosswalks, one-way only streets, and lots of parking lots for drivers. By utilizing delivery rovers, Grubhub and Yandex will allow their delivery to bypass roads altogether as the Yandex rover uses sidewalks and crosswalks at a pace “slightly faster than the average human.” With the ability to carry up to 44 pounds of goods, the rover will be able to deliver orders that humans and drivers just could not handle.
Through this partnership, Yandex will introduce its technology to consumers while commercializing the technology developed for their robotaxis. While they wait for consumers and legislation to catch up to their autonomous vehicle technology, they can use the same tech in an innovative way immediately. After being spun off from a joint venture with Uber last year, Yandex’s self-driving group has already logged at least 7 million autonomous miles. In fact, Yandex rovers are already operating in Russia while the full-size autonomous vehicles are tested in Russia, Israel, and the US. Yandex will operate in private, more controllable areas by working on college campuses without having to contend with the challenges of major roadways.
Innovative ventures like these serve to commercialize autonomous technology and the autonomous sector while also introducing consumers to an autonomous future. As we increasingly rely on autonomous technology for needed services, vehicles like the Yandex rover can serve as an excellent way for consumers to become more comfortable with autonomous vehicles.
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