This fall, students at Ohio State University can get robot-based food delivery as part of the meal plan.
Online and mobile food-ordering and delivery platform Grubhub is partnering with self-driving, AI-powered robotics provider Cartken to bring robot delivery to U.S. college campuses. The companies piloted the service at Ohio State University during spring 2022, and a full rollout is expected at Ohio State this fall.
Grubhub partners with more than 250 college campuses across the U.S. to give students the ability to integrate meal plans directly into their Grubhub account and have access to restaurants both on- and off-campus for delivery and pickup. The partnership with Cartken for autonomous robot delivery builds on Grubhub's existing campus offering.
Cartken robots are designed to navigate pavements, crosswalks and pedestrian paths within the campus area without human guidance. The robots use Cartken's artificial intelligence (AI) and camera-based navigation and mapping technology, which the company developed for small autonomous vehicles to safely operate around pedestrians.
Human override remains an option if necessary – for instance when a path is blocked. The robots operate at up to three miles per hour on campus and are built to handle various weather conditions, including rain and snow.
Grubhub has been actively piloting delivery robots on college campuses. The company previously teamed up with the autonomous vehicle subsidiary of European Internet firm Yandex to roll out delivery via Yandex robots at Ohio State. The Yandex robots autonomously navigate pavements, campus crosswalks, and pedestrian areas at speeds between three to five miles per hour during daytime and after dark.
"Robot delivery is exciting for students and helps provide even better service and innovative solutions to our campus partners," said Eric Harper, senior director of campus environments at Grubhub. "We've worked with Ohio State University for years on the campus dining front, and they are always an early adopter of solutions that create efficiencies for their operations and improve the student experience. We look forward to supporting our university partners and responding to their unique delivery environments as we roll out this technology at other campuses in the coming months."
"We're thrilled to be working with Grubhub to delight students and campus staff with robot delivery," said Christian Bersch, CEO of Cartken. "This collaboration perfectly aligns with our mission to use robotics and AI technology to provide friction-free and environmentally sustainable delivery, and have robots serve the community. We are excited to scale alongside Grubhub and offer robot delivery to students on campuses across the country."
"Robot delivery has been very popular on campus this past school year, validating our prediction that students would appreciate autonomous mobile delivery," said Zia Ahmed, senior director of Student Life Dining Services at Ohio State University. "We are excited about the return of robots to campus, and we have been testing the Cartken robots during the spring semester with the same vision to lower the cost of delivery, reduce the time it takes to deliver food and enhance sustainability."