Grubhub and Cartken, a technology startup that specializes in self-driving, AI-powered robotics and delivery operations, announced a partnership to bring robot delivery to college campuses. This delivery was piloted at Ohio State University this spring, and a full roll out is expected when students return to campus this fall.
Grubhub partners with more than 250 college campuses across the United States to give students the ability to integrate meal plans directly into their Grubhub account and access 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 and is a seamless fit for campus environments, which are notoriously difficult for cars to navigate.
"Robot delivery is exciting for students and helps provide even better service and innovative solutions to our campus partners," says 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."
Cartken's robots 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 – guaranteeing reliable operation and minimizing delivery delays. Cartken's robots operate at up to three miles per hour on campus and handle various weather conditions, including rain and snow.
"We're thrilled to be working with Grubhub to delight students and campus staff with robot delivery," says 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," adds 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."