Add another one to the list of companies piloting small, wheeled, autonomous robots for small-package and food delivery: Yandex. Russia’s search and services giant has expanded its ambitions in the world of autonomous transportation, building on its work with self-driving cars to deploy a six-wheeled robot that adopts the popular cooler on wheels style pioneered by Starship Robotics.
The small autonomous robot, appropriately dubbed “Rover,” has a suite of sensors, including that prominent lidar array on top, and it moves at “average walking speed,” according to the company. It includes software that can help it avoid people walking in its path, pets and just about any other objects that might block the sidewalk while it’s in motion on its way to its destination.
The initial pilot includes testing on the main Yandex corporate campus in Moscow, across a range of weather conditions, and during both the day and at night. The Moscow HQ hosts more than 7,000 employees, and spans office buildings, restaurants and parking garages. Yandex is providing food deliveries and groceries from its own Yandex.Eats and Yandex.Lavka platforms, respectively, and small-goods transportation is another area of potential expansion, as Yandex owns and operates its own e-commerce platform (Beru). The company also says Rover could find a home within its warehouses and data centers for in-office transportation.
That’s what most differentiates the Yandex wheeled delivery bot from most of the other ones currently in service or in development: At Yandex, there are a lot of other businesses in-house that could benefit from autonomous last-mile transportation. Companies like Postmates and Amazon also have primary businesses that benefit, while Starship and other dedicated companies need to sell to clients to stand up their revenue generation. Yandex might be unique in the breadth of in-house businesses for which an autonomous, wheeled, small-parcel robot could have knock-on benefits.