University of Arizona welcomes delivery rovers to campus

UA is only one of two campuses in the US with the Yandex self-driving rovers.
Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 7:16 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s the way of the future on the University of Arizona campus. Food delivery rovers are now bringing students their snacks and meals.

“If we can take rovers onto Mars, why can’t we just use little rovers here on campus to deliver food,” said Mari John, student union at UA.

It’s nameless and faceless, but cute nonetheless.

“They’re about the size of a small suitcase, and they essentially drive about 5 mph from point A to point B,” said Toby Snuggs of Yandex Self-Driving Group. “So, so exciting. They’re really cute, and they’re just a fun way for students to receive their orders.”

They’re basically a mini self-driving car. Loaded up with food ordered from Grubhub, then they’re on their way within the main campus to deliver a good meal. They’re surrounded with sensors and radars, pausing if anything gets too close. They’ll head out on pre-mapped sidewalks and pathways within the main campus—totally autonomously, but there is a backup plan in case something happens.

“The remote operator can take that over and operate it. These rovers are actually designed to run basically autonomously all the time, and they’re designed to go off-map, off these pre-mapped areas, but it’s much more efficient if they do operate in these pre-mapped areas,” said Snuggs.

It’s a cool technology, but one needed more and more in today’s day in age. More people are demanding delivery, and as the pandemic still spreads, it’s a way for people—especially those in quarantine—to get food right at their door.

“Quite frankly, there aren’t enough human couriers really to meet that delivery demand,” said Snuggs.

“Now, these rovers can bring food to them wherever they might be,” said John.

So next time you’re on campus, watch out for these hardworking robots. UArizona is only one of two campuses in the US with the Yandex self-driving rovers. Right now, they don’t cross any major streets and stay within the heart of the main campus. The university said they are in talks with the city to see if they can eventually rover a little farther.

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