Uber launches robot food delivery in California
By Tina Bellon
(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc on Monday said it launched pilot food delivery services with autonomous vehicles in two California cities, and said it was adding electric vehicle charging stations into its global driver app.
The announcements are part of Uber’s annual product event where the ride-hail and food delivery company showcases the latest updates to its app.
Uber announced one food delivery service using autonomous cars, and a separate pilot using sidewalk robots. Both services are available to Uber Eats users in Santa Monica and West Hollywood in California, and consumers will have the ability to opt out of the programs.
The autonomous car pilot is in collaboration with Motional, the self-driving joint venture of Hyundai Motor Co and Aptiv PLC, and was initially announced in December. It launched on Monday, Uber and Motional said.
Uber said the sidewalk robots are provided by Serve Robotics, a spin-off of delivery company Postmates, which Uber acquired in 2020.
The vehicles in both services are actively monitored by human operators, Uber said, adding that “it will be some time before this technology is operated at scale.”
Self-driving companies have repeatedly pushed out timelines to provide truly driverless trips at scale, with only a few limited fully autonomous programs available across the U.S.
Uber on Monday also said it was launching a map of electric vehicle charging stations in its driver app in the U.S. this summer, and later worldwide, in an effort to promote drivers switching to a battery-powered vehicle.
Uber, which aims to have only electric vehicles on its platform in the United States, Canada and Europe by 2030, said charging was one of drivers’ biggest obstacles to switching to EVs.
The company also said it was launching an option this summer to rent party and coach buses, and passenger vans through its U.S. app in collaboration with rental service US Coachways.
(Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)