Will PepsiCo’s robots replace the pizza delivery guy on college campuses?
There is nowhere the pizza guy is more popular than on college campuses. But he may be getting a run for his money from a delivery robot stocked with healthy snacks that will be rolling around the grounds of one private university.
At the University of Pacific in Stockton, CA, PepsiCo, in partnership with Bay Area-based robotics startup Robby Technologies, has rolled out an autonomous delivery robot known as the “snackbot,” according to USA Today. Students using the snackbot app can order snacks for delivery to one of 50 locations around the campus. The snacks available are all part of PepsiCo’s better-for-you snack portfolio, Hello Goodness. By PepsiCo’s account, it is the first brand-developed delivery robot currently active in the U.S.
While the brand/startup relationship between PepsiCo and Robby Technologies may be unique, many tech startups have been getting serious about robot-based delivery for the last few years. Since 2017, there has been a spate of news on autonomous or semi-autonomous delivery robots hitting city streets in the U.S. and abroad.
Some municipalities have been friendly to innovation in the autonomous delivery vehicles space. Others, like San Francisco, have expressed concerns about the potential complications and dangers of robot-clogged sidewalks and have taken steps accordingly.
In December of 2017, the city began discussing limitations to restrict robot tests to industrial zones. But by March the city began easing up the restrictions, favoring a pay-for-permit based model and allowing tests on specific city streets, according to Curbed.
University campuses, though, could be an environment where autonomous delivery robots can roll around with a smaller chance of causing an incident than on a crowded city street.
Regulation from individual municipalities hasn’t stopped some big players in delivery and other areas of technology from continuing work on robotic innovations.
For instance, Postmates announced the rollout of its cute, cartoonishly-designed autonomous delivery robot called Serve, according to Digital Trends. Serve moves at walking speed, is enabled with a touchscreen and should be in operation in 2019.
And Segway Robotics, famous for its personal transport scooter, recently announced the creation of its Loomo Delivery robot, an autonomous vehicle with three shelves meant for carrying take-out orders, parcels and the like.
- Drone to hand delivery could become a thing – RetailWire
- San Francisco limits robots on its sidewalks – RetailWire
- San Francisco ready to permit robots on city sidewalks – Curbed
- Postmates’ to roll out Minion-like autonomous delivery robots in 2019 – Digital Trends
- Segway-Ninebot debuts new shared scooter and Loomo Delivery robot – Venture Beat
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you expect robot deliveries to become popular on college campuses? Do you expect to CPG companies such as PepsiCo to become active in trying to lock down this market or will it primarily be retailers that fill the niche?