ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On a recent Friday afternoon, a delivery robot made its way along a crowded sidewalk on State Street. It made an abrupt stop in front of Amer's Deli, spun itself 90 degrees and backed into a parking space with the precise movements of a Revolutionary War soldier.
Some passersby were taken aback by the sight. Others walked right past. One oblivious deli customer used the parked robot as her personal table, then left her empty water bottle on its lid.
"Somebody sat on one the other day," said Pavel Vorobev, head of products for the self-driving division of Russian tech company Yandex, which deployed four of its Rover delivery bots in Ann Arbor last month.
How pedestrians and diners treat the robots is one thing he cannot control. How the robots treat them? That's very much in his purview, and part of what Yandex is hoping to learn from its operations in the heart of this college town.