It's Back-To-School Season... For Robots

A number of major universities are about to unveil new fleets of autonomous food delivery robots

There are only two things we can depend on in this world: death and robots. When I joined The Takeout I took a sacred oath to keep humanity abreast of the robots' plans for a new world order, one where our lives are "easier" and "more convenient," where humans won't need to do "boring menial tasks" like "cleaning our houses" or "talking to children." Even when these robots are cute as a button, it's important to view them with a sense of trepidation. And that's exactly how I feel about the ultra-friendly delivery robots making their way toward America's college campuses.

Next week, a fleet of autonomous delivery robots will be unleashed on the campus of The Ohio State University, delivering food from campus cafes and restaurants directly to hungry students, faculty, and other robot-curious visitors. According to Zia Ahmed, senior director for dining services in Ohio State's Office of Student Life, the campus' average food delivery time was previously around one hour, at a cost between $5 and $6 per order. By replacing human delivery people with 50 robots from autonomous vehicle developer Yandex, Ahmed believes wait times will be reduced to 30 minutes and will only cost $2.50 per delivery.

Yandex's delivery robot invasion of the OSU campus is merely a harbinger of bigger, more convenient things to come: on July 6, the company announced a multi-year partnership with Grubhub to serve over 250 college campuses across America. Ohio State will have the privilege of being the first to welcome the robots to its campus with open arms because of research showing it's the highest mobile ordering campus in the country, with about 98% of all food delivery orders coming through apps.

Lest you think that one company's robots zooming about 250 college campuses isn't much cause for concern, maybe you'll change your tune upon learning that Yandex isn't the only robot player in the collegiate robot game. Last week, Starship Technologies announced that four new colleges have pledged fealty to its robot fleet, which will soon be seen zipping around the University of Kentucky, the University of Illinois Chicago, the University of Nevada Reno, and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. I hope the students at those universities are all working toward advanced degrees in robot sciences, because we'll need their beautiful minds to save us when the streets are flooded with delivery bots gone wild.

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