A few years ago, Uber gave up the dream of making its own autonomous cars and sold its manufacturing company. However, the giant has now raced to market with a fleet of delivery robots and autonomous vehicles thanks to recent partnerships. Last year, truck tech startup Otto launched a self-driving truck without a driver that was picked up in New Jersey six days after Otto’s successful test on October 20th, 2016. A month later, Uber unveiled an automated Volvo XC90 driverless vehicle that was then tested in Pittsburgh.
Cartken robots had been deployed in the past at college campuses, as well as in other scenarios. Access to Uber’s vast ecosystem unlocks the potential to change the face of food delivery. If successful, it could send seismic shocks through the gig workforce—or fail and flounder without logistical challenges.
CES, which is supposed to be the most influential tech event in the world, will feature robots for food service and test rides for electric self-driving Ubers from Motional. The company is a Boston startup backed by Hyundai.
Recently, the major ride-hailing and mobility services company Uber announced a 10-year agreement to deploy millions of autonomous vehicles across the Uber network. The pilot for Motional’s Hyundai IONIQ 5 robotaxis has been making Uber Eats deliveries in Santa Monica since May.
The city of Miami will be the scene for some new developments in the world of self-driving delivery robots. That’s right, Uber’s food delivery function is rolling out sidewalk bots with Cartken’s AI-powered carriers. This robot company, founded by Google engineers, typically operates over college campuses with GrubHub to provide high-quality food to students who don’t want to leave their desks. The partnership with Uber Eats will be its first outside of colleges.
In the past few weeks, there have been a lot of interesting partnerships between Uber and other companies. One example is Serve Robotics, which has been making sidewalk deliveries for Uber Eats in West Hollywood. The Redwood City startup was spun out of Uber last year as a result of its acquisition of Postmates in 2020.
The company made headlines when it became the first to get a permit for autonomous vehicles from California’s DMV. Now, they’ve finally gotten the green light to deploy their cars on the Uber network in Mountain View and Houston. This stems from a 10-year agreement announced at Uber’s Go/Get conference in May. And Nuro has wasted no time delivering on their promise.
Uber’s global team is led by Noah Zych, who has said that partnerships in this area will help show the important role that autonomous vehicles play in the future. But with Lyft pursuing similar partnerships, the road ahead doesn’t look smooth.
One of the bigger players in the driverless car industry is GM-subsidary Cruise Automation, who is offering exclusive autonomous rides in San Francisco since last year. They have about 100 autonomous vehicles operating without a safety driver and are seeking to scale to 5,000. However, the city is taking a closer look at their plans as there are concerns that an expansion could overwhelm city streets.
Cruise has addressed this issue by providing training to police departments and a dedicated phone number to call when an empty robotaxi is stopped. The market is still in its infancy, operating in an environment of economic uncertainty and rising costs.
Although there are new entrants like Zoox which was acquired by Amazon in 2020 for $1.2 billion, and autonomous trucking company Aurora which went public last year after Uber spun it off. Ford and VW-backed Argo AI suddenly shut down in October and Apple just abandoned ambitions of developing a fully autonomous Level 5 car, opting for Level 4 where human interaction is still required. It’s pushed its self-driving car launch to 2026.