Uber Eats is testing autonomous delivery robots in Los Angeles: vehicles from two different robot builders will drive around different parts of the city. Although, for the time being, someone will still be around to keep an eye on things.
Learning what makes sense
Meal delivery platform Uber Eats is unleashing self-driving delivery robots on Los Angeles and is doing in not one, but two pilot projects simultaneously. Serve Robotics, a spin-out of Uber itself, will take care of short trips in West Hollywood, while self-driving taxi builder Motional will deliver over longer distances in Santa Monica. At first, however, the offer will be limited to just a few restaurants.
The aim is to find out what customers and merchants actually want, but also to learn what makes sense, TechCrunch reports. Uber Eats hopes that the pilots will be successful and that in a few months’ time the company can figure out how to scale up. Uber is already prepared to enter into multiple partnerships and truly integrate self-driving vehicles into its delivery platform, alongside physical couriers.
No tip for the robot
Customers within the test zones will be able to choose whether they want a robot at the door. When the robot arrives, they will be asked in the app to go there. With a code on their phone, they can unlock the vehicle and take the food out of the cargo space. The experience will be very different depending on which robot deliverer they get, because Motional works with small cars while Serve is developing small pavement robots.
Nevertheless, there are still a few practical obstacles. The self-driving robots are not yet allowed to go out on their own in Los Angeles, so a member of staff will always come along to intervene when necessary. In principle, the autonomous vehicles are not allowed to accept tips or payments. If people do leave tips, Uber Eats will refund the amount, the company promises.