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Grubhub takes robot delivery to college

A new partnership with Cartken will roll out in force at Ohio State this fall with more campuses to come.
Cartken robot
About 50 Cartken bots are coming to Ohio State University in the fall. / Photograph courtesy of Grubhub

College students may soon be able to skip the dining hall in favor of robot delivery from Grubhub.

The delivery company plans to bring the service to college campuses under a new partnership with Cartken. The two companies piloted robot delivery at Ohio State University this spring, and will do a "full rollout" when students return in the fall, Grubhub said Monday.

That will amount to about 50 on-duty Cartken bots, with plans to double that number by the end of the first semester, a Grubhub spokesperson said.

Robot delivery has so far been "very popular" with students at Ohio State, said Zia Ahmed, senior director of Student Life Dining Services, in a statement. He added that the bots can lower the cost of delivery while also making the service faster and more sustainable.

Robot delivery builds on Grubhub's existing offering for colleges, which allows students to integrate meal plans into their Grubhub account and order delivery from on- and off-campus restaurants. It has partnerships with more than 250 schools.

The Cartken partnership follows a previous robot delivery agreement with Russian company Yandex, which ended shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. 

Cartken's six-wheeled rovers use AI, cameras and mapping technology to navigate sidewalks and pedestrian areas without human assistance, though a person can override the system if a bot gets stuck, Grubhub said. They travel at speeds of up to 3 miles per hour and can handle rain and snow.

"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," said Eric Harper, Grubhub's senior director of campus environments, in a statement.

Robot delivery has caught on at college campuses, where it can be more difficult for cars to make deliveries. Big college foodservice operator Sodexo has a deal with Kiwibot to bring its rovers to 50 campuses this year, and Starship Technologies is also intently focused on colleges.

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