As if American college students needed more reasons to order pizza for delivery, here’s another: Beginning this fall, Grubhub plans to roll out food-delivery robots on U.S. college campuses.
The move is designed to bring more automation to one of the few sectors of the economy that actually thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic. The six-wheeled, rover-like robots are about the size of a suitcase and were built by Russian tech firm Yandex NV, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.
Grubhub will deploy the units to some of the 250 American colleges where the delivery company already operates. The robots have been tested in Moscow over the past few years, delivering food, groceries and documents. A similar restaurant-delivery trial has been taking place since April in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan.
The robots represent Grubhub’s first attempt to use autonomous vehicles, Fortune reported. They are being rolled out amid a larger trend among restaurants to use drones and other automated units as a way to cut down on delivery times and lower costs. Nuro, which operates a fleet of self-driving pods, begin delivering orders for Domino’s Pizza in Houston in April. Kiwibot introduced a similar model this year that can deliver food indoors.
For Grubhub, robots provide an opportunity to deliver to areas that are car-free or have strict visitor policies, which should boost its ability to compete against industry leader DoorDash in key college markets. Grubhub has lost more than 30 percentage points in the market share of U.S. food delivery since 2018, according to data from Bloomberg Second Measure.
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