Russian tech leader Yandex passed a competitive milestone for self-driving technology with a deal to provide self-driving robots for food delivery services at U.S. college campuses, according to Sova Capital.
Yandex Self-Driving Group, which makes technology for autonomous vehicles, agreed to a multi-year partnership with United States-based Grubhub this week. Under the agreement, Yandex’s robot couriers or rovers will provide delivery services for Grubhub at college campuses.
“The partnership is a notable milestone in Yandex efforts to commercialize its self-driving technology,” Sova Head of Research Mikhail Terentiev and Analyst Oksana Mustiatsa said in a note yesterday. “Grubhub decided to use Yandex technology rather than local providers, signaling its competiveness.”
Global competition is intense to develop self-driving technologies for the next wave of transport — and most major tech players are interested.
Gaining legal acceptance to deploy the autonomous technologies for cars in passenger transport is still in the works, so self-driving car usage remains limited. But robotic delivery vehicles do not face the same legal constraints and are at a much more advanced stage of commercial use.
Yandex autonomous delivery robots can navigate pavements, pedestrian areas and crosswalks, and reach campus areas not accessible by car, according to a company statement. Yandex robotic vehicles are fully integrated into the Grubhub app. As the rover approaches its final destination, the customer will receive a push notification. Getting a meal is as simple as opening the rover’s hatch via the Grubhub app, Yandex says.
Yandex delivery robots are built on the same self-driving technology stack as the company’s autonomous cars, according to the company. They can operate in broad daylight and at night, in moderate snowfall and rain, as well as in controlled and uncontrolled pedestrian crossing scenarios.
Delivery services offer an early way to commercialise the technology, which is already operating in some neighborhoods in Russia with autonomous robots delivering orders from select restaurants and grocery stores.
While calling this a win for Yandex, analysts from Sova waited to draw conclusions on the agreement, expecting no significant immediate impact on financials as “it remains to be seen how much traction it gets.” The two companies did not disclose the financial details of the deal.
That said, Grubhub appears quite optimistic about Yandex capabilities and its capacity to deliver.
“As we looked for a robot delivery partner, we recognized that we not only needed best-in-class technology, but the resources and scale to meet the unique demands of our campus clients,” said Sean Ir, director of strategic partnerships at Grubhub. “Yandex was the clear choice.”