Robots Ready To Deliver Food And Beverages Across University Of Arizona Campus

A fleet of rovers capable of navigating campus on their own is the latest addition to the University of Arizona's portfolio of food delivery options. Chris Richards/University of Arizona

Over 35,000 Wildcats are able to order their favorite foods from on-campus dining locations – including IQ Fresh, Einstein Bros Bagels, On Deck Deli and Sabor – via the Grubhub app and have them delivered by an autonomous rover capable of navigating campus on its own.

The rovers are being deployed on the University of Arizona campus through a partnership between Arizona Student Unions and the food delivery service Grubhub. UArizona is the second campus to offer the delivery option this fall, following Ohio State University.

Through the Grubhub app, customers can choose robotic delivery in addition to the already familiar options of pickup or in-person delivery, if they are located in an area where the new delivery method is available.

“We know that our students are very interested in forward-thinking tech applications such as smart vending machines, and we hope that with this new delivery option, we can offer quicker deliveries, especially during rush times, across campus,” said Christine Carlson , director of dining and nutrition for Arizona Student Unions.

Manufactured by Yandex Self-Driving Group , the rovers, which weigh in at just over 100 pounds and move at speeds between 3 and 5 mph, use technology initially developed for self-driving cars. UArizona is the first campus to benefit from a full deployment of the company’s third generation self-driving technology, which enables the rovers to navigate pavements, campus crosswalks and pedestrian areas on their own to blend in with cross-campus traffic.

Resembling something like a cross between a Mars rover and a sleek-looking ice chest, the six-wheeled vehicles can operate during daytime and after dark and in various weather conditions, including rain, wind and heat. The rovers will operate seven days a week, and students can request delivery to popular locations on campus including dorms, the Main Library, Albert B. Weaver Science-Engineering Library, McKale Memorial Center and more.

Once an order comes in to one of the participating dining locations, staff will ready the order for takeout as they normally would, place it inside a rover’s cargo compartment and send the rover on its way. The customer who placed the order will then receive a unique retrieval code through the Grubhub app that ensures their order gets delivered to them and nobody else. Once the rover is in the vicinity of the person who placed the order, the app will notify the person and provide the access code. All the customer has to do is type in the code and grab the food after the rover automatically pops its lid.

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