Pepsi, Robby Technologies Get Together on Self-Driving Delivery

January 9, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

Anyone remember that episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer, after decrying modern technology, pulls out his iPhone and says “Siri, tell Amazon to drone me a beer.”? Seconds later, an Amazon drone flies into his window and hands him a beer, which he promptly drinks. We’re not quite to that point yet—thanks, FAA—but we’re that much closer thanks to a new connection between Pepsi and Robby Technologies.

The new partnership will see the development of snackbots, a kind of self-driving robot that carries a range of snacks and beverages—mainly from Hello Goodness, reports note—to its potential market. In this case, the market is Stockton, California’s University of the Pacific.

This is the first time that a major food and beverage maker has turned to robots for delivery, and they’re fairly impressive robots at that. They can travel 20 miles on a single battery charge—because of course they’re electric—and can deliver their payload to over 50 areas on the 175-acre campus. They even boast headlights and cameras, as well as all-wheel drive, which opens up their use even in inclement weather, or at least as inclement as California sees. The system only runs from nine to five, though, but the app that runs the snackbot is available to anyone with a University of the Pacific email address.

University of the Pacific ecommerce director Matt Camino noted “We’re thrilled to welcome snackbot to our campus, along with its convenient and nourishing options. This innovative technology from PepsiCo is enhancing campus life for our students, staff and faculty alike, who have embraced this new way of snacking from Pepsi.”

Convenience foods and college go together like a hand in a glove, so it’s not surprising to see this go on. Sure, it might have had greater utility if drone aircraft were involved—imagine living on a fourth-floor dorm room and ordering snacks from the Snackbot system—but the insurance rates would likely have been nightmarishly prohibitive. It’s sad that the delivery drone trend has crapped out to land-based car drones, but it is as ever better than nothing.

Some college students, regardless, will be abundantly happy to get snacks and drinks via a simple robotic cart system, and using mobile payments to cover the bill will only make it that much more readily accessible.