Grubhub signed a multi-year partnership with Yandex Self-Driving Group, a division of the Russian multinational tech group, to enable faster, more cost-effective deliveries via delivery robots on U.S. college campuses.

According to a press release announcing the deal, Yandex autonomous bots will join Grubhub’s college delivery program that already includes partnerships on more than 250 U.S. campuses, giving students the ability to integrate meal plans directly into their Grubhub accounts to access restaurants on and off campus.

The companies will begin rolling out autonomous robot delivery on select campuses later this fall.

“We chose to partner with Grubhub for campus delivery because of Grubhub’s unparalleled reach into college campuses across the United States, as well as the flexibility and strength of their ordering platform. We are delighted to deploy dozens of our rovers, taking the next step in actively commercializing our self-driving technology in different markets across the globe,’’ said Dmitry Polishchuk, CEO of Yandex Self-Driving Group.

“Together with Yandex, we’re changing the way college students experience food delivery,” said Brian Madigan, vice president of corporate and campus partners at Grubhub. “We’re excited to offer these cost-effective, scalable and quick food ordering and delivery capabilities to colleges and universities across the country that are looking to adapt to students’ unique dining needs. While college campuses are notoriously difficult for cars to navigate, specifically as it relates to food delivery, Yandex robots easily access parts of campuses that vehicles cannot—effectively removing a major hurdle universities face when implementing new technology.”

Given the fraught state of relations between the United States and Russia, the announcement generated some skeptical discussion on social media. In light of the ongoing, large-scale ransomware break targeting more than 1,000 U.S.-based businesses, which is alleged to have originated from inside Russia, some questioned the safety of such high-tech vehicles traversing American cities and college campuses.

Yandex autonomous delivery robots can navigate pavements, pedestrian areas and crosswalks, and reach campus areas not accessible by car. Such functionality enables the robots to handle delivery tasks traditionally performed with human guidance and provides efficient last-mile logistics automation. Robotic delivery service offered by Yandex SDG is fully integrated into the Grubhub app and is quite easy, according to the companies.

As the rover approaches its final destination, the diner will receive a push notification. Getting a meal is as simple as opening the rover’s hatch via the Grubhub app.

Yandex delivery robots are built on the same state-of-art self-driving technology stack as the company’s autonomous cars. They can operate in broad daylight and at night, in moderate snowfall and rain, as well as in controlled and uncontrolled pedestrian crossing scenarios.

Since late 2020, Yandex rovers have been operating commercially in Russia, delivering thousands of orders from restaurants and grocery stores via the food delivery platform Yandex.Eats and the Yandex.Lavka express grocery delivery platform. Since April 2021, Yandex rovers have also been delivering orders from local restaurants in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“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, and together we will serve colleges and universities across the country better than ever before.”