Forget the old-school vending machines—PepsiCo, Inc., is testing a way to deliver snacks directly to folks with the munchies. The food, snack, and beverage maker began making deliveries with self-driving robots Thursday at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. College students were able to order Baked Lay's, SunChips, or Bubly sparkling water on an app—and then meet a six-wheeled robot at more than 50 locations on campus.
Companies are increasingly using autonomous vehicles, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) to grab shares of the competitive grocery market.
Other companies have also been using self-driving vehicles to deliver food. Last month, supermarket operator Kroger announced it would start delivering groceries in a driverless vehicle from a store in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The robots used at the University of the Pacific will move at speeds of up to six miles per hour—about the speed of a casual jogger—according to Robby Technologies, which makes the robots.
Three workers on the campus will be refilling the robots with food and drinks. They’ll also be recharging and replacing dead batteries.
At first, the company will deploy three robots. But PepsiCo hopes to grow to a fleet of five snackbots over time. The bots, which weigh 80 pounds and are less than three feet tall, drive on their own. They’re polite too: They stop when someone steps in front of them, Robby says.
The snackbot revolution came about because more and more of PepsiCo’s customers want a convenient way to buy munchies on their phones.
(PepsiCo’s self-driving robots made by Robby Technologies. PepsiCo photo via AP)