Food delivery rovers roam the University of Arizona


TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) – If you walk around the University of Arizona campus and you might see little white six-wheeled robots that look like mini coolers. These are the new food delivery rovers that deliver food from select Student Union restaurants to anyone on campus if they order on the Grubhub app.

The rovers, created by the Yandex Self-Driving Group company, launched last week and students can now order IQ Fresh, Einstein Bagels, On Deck Deli, and Sabor.

Anyone on campus can download the Grubhub app and choose delivery. Once you’ve picked your food, you pick a popular spot on campus like a dormitory, the McKale Memorial Center, the Robert L. Nugent Building, Old Main, and many more.

“When these rovers came up, Grubhub said we were partnering with Yandex and wanted to bring this to the University of America,” said Mari John, acting associate director of marketing, Business Affairs Auxiliary Services. “We are always looking for new ways to serve our students in innovative ways”

When an order goes through the app, staff will place the food inside the isolated rover and send it to the person’s place of delivery. Upon arrival, customers open the lid via Grubhub, then press the button under the lid to close it. There are codes involved in delivery and ordering, which ensures that the food is going to the right person.

“When the rovers are going around, they will smell the person and stop and wait for them to pass,” John said.

Each robot weighs around 100 pounds and has hundreds of sensors, cameras and radars to help them navigate, said Toby Snuggs, sales manager at Yandex.

“Lidar is a type of sensor that actually creates a 3D view of the world around the rover, which is exactly what we do in self-driving cars,” Snuggs said. “And the rover will say ‘oh that looks like a truck’.”

Geofencing helps ensure that the rover remains confined to the UA campus. The rover’s internal maps are constantly updated, which helps them recognize their surroundings. Snuggs said demand for the technology is high, especially during the pandemic.

“There is a huge increase in demand and on top of that we are finding that there aren’t enough human couriers to meet the demand,” Snuggs said. “And this is our third version of the rovers, so we’re constantly evolving.

Yandex plans to update its rovers and publish more on other campuses in the United States, Snuggs said.

But on the AU campus, John says students so far enjoy rovers.

“The response has been positive so far,” she said. “And people are curious so it’s a treat to find one of the rovers on campus, which is why we see students taking selfies with them and photos with them and petting them a bit on their way. . It’s really cool to see. “




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