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Motional, which offers autonomous taxi rides, and Serve Robotics, which creates autonomous sidewalk delivery robots, both started deliveries with Uber Eats yesterday. Both companies announced partnerships with Uber Eats late last year, Motional in December 2021 and Serve a month earlier in November.
The deployment is a first for Motional and Uber Eats. Motional is deploying its all-electric IONIQ 5 vehicles, which have previously only been used to give taxi rides. Uber Eats’ pilot with Motional is its first on-road autonomous vehicle pilot.
“Autonomous delivery signifies the next phase of Motional’s commercial roadmap,” Abe Ghabra, Motional’s chief operating officer, said. “This service will provide the learnings and experience needed to make Motional the trusted AV provider for on-demand delivery networks. We’re proud to partner with Uber on this important milestone and begin introducing Uber Eats customers to autonomous technology.”
Motional’s autonomous vehicles have to operate with a safety driver in them, according to the permit the company has from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The vehicles will alert merchants when they arrive at a designated pick-up location, where an employee will place the order in a specially-designated compartment in the backseat.
The vehicle then drives to a drop-off location. The customer is alerted upon the car’s arrival, and can use the Uber Eats app to unlock the vehicle and retrieve their order. Motional cars are at work making deliveries in Santa Monica.
“At Uber, we’re always looking for ways to use new technology to help consumers go anywhere and get anything,” Noah Zych, Global GM for Uber’s Autonomous Mobility and Delivery business, said. “We’re thrilled to begin piloting with Motional in California and are eager to see how their promising autonomous technology will begin to change how people and goods move throughout the world for the better.”
Serve’s robots are delivering for Uber Eats in limited areas of Los Angeles. Select customers who place orders with the Uber Eats app will be able to pick if they would like their food to be delivered with a Serve robot. Customers who do opt in will be able to track their delivery and open the robot to retrieve their order using the Uber Eats app.
Serve Robotics spun out of Uber in March 2021. The company brought in a $10 million investment from Nvidia in March 2022, and $13 million in an expanded seed funding round in December 2021.