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06/13/2022

Grubhub Bringing Robot Food Delivery to College Campuses

Service to roll out at this fall at Ohio State University
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Cartken’s robots can operate on college campuses’ pavements, crosswalks and pedestrian paths without human guidance, using artificial intelligence and camera-based navigation and mapping technology.

Online and mobile food-ordering and delivery platform Grubhub and Cartken, a technology startup specializing in self-driving artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robotics and delivery operations, have formed a partnership to bring robot delivery to college campuses. The initiative was piloted at Ohio State University this past spring, with a full rollout expected this coming fall. 

Grubhub already collaborates with more than 250 college campuses across the United States to enable students to integrate meal plans directly into their Grubhub accounts and access on- and off-campus restaurants for delivery and pickup. The partnership with Cartken for autonomous robot delivery adds to Grubhub’s existing campus offering and makes sense for campus environments, which are usually difficult for cars to navigate.

“Robot delivery is exciting for students and helps provide even better service and innovative solutions to our campus partners,” noted Eric Harper, senior director of campus environments at Chicago-based 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.”

Cartken’s robots can operate on college campuses’ pavements, crosswalks and pedestrian paths without human guidance, using AI and camera-based navigation and mapping technology. Human override is an option if necessary – for instance, when a path is blocked – guaranteeing reliable operation and minimizing delivery delays. The robots can travel at up to 3 miles per hour on campus and handle weather conditions such as rain and snow.

“We're thrilled to be working with Grubhub to delight students and campus staff with robot delivery,” said Christian Bersch, CEO of Oakland, Calif.-based 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,” observed 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.”

Last year, Gubhub revealed a similar venture at Ohio State University with Russian company Yandex; according to a Grubhub spokeswoman, the company subsequently ended its partnership with Yandex to explore U.S.-based providers. Also last year, Kiwibot, a robotic last-mile delivery company, and its foodservice and facilities management partner, Sodexo North America, offered robot food delivery at another three university campuses: New Mexico State University; Loyola Marymount University, in California; and Gonzaga University, in Washington state. 

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