Autonomous vehicle technology company Motional have entered into a new partnership to launch autonomous food deliveries for Uber customers in Santa Monica, California. Under the initiative, Motional's electric vehicles (EVs) will start delivering specific meal kits from select restaurants on Uber Eats early next year. The collaboration represents Uber's first partnership with an autonomous vehicle fleet provider. Uber Eats US and Canada vice-president and head Sarfraz Maredia said: "We're excited to partner with Motional to test a new kind of delivery for Uber Eats consumers in 2022. "Our consumers and merchant partners have come to expect convenience, reliability and innovation from Uber, and this collaboration represents a huge opportunity to meet, and exceed, those expectations." Motional will deploy its Hyundai IONIQ 5-based robotaxi to deliver food orders from restaurants. The company explained that it has made some modifications to the vehicles to enable autonomous deliveries. It said that this will be the first time that its SAE level four vehicles will be used to make food deliveries. Motional president and CEO Karl Iagnemma said: "Today, Motional enters the autonomous delivery market.
Autonomous vehicles (AV) play an increasingly important role in food and parcel deliveries. In early December, Silicon Valley-based startup Nuro announced that it was launching the first commercial autonomous delivery in California. Partnering with 7-Eleven, the company provides the service for residents of Mountain View, where the business is located. According to a blog post from Nuro's co-founder Zhu Jiajun, customers can access the autonomous delivery through 7-Eleven's 7NOW delivery app. Nuro currently offers the service with its Prius vehicles in fully autonomous mode, expecting to replace them with its R2 autonomous cars later.
Motional has announced it wants to more than double its number of employees in the state, and most of them will work in Los Angeles as human operators for self-driving cars that will learn, inch-by-inch, mile-by-mile, how to drive themselves. Until Motional gets the required permits from the California DMV, the self-driving car fleet will have to always have human drivers behind the wheel and ready to step in at a moment's notice. Motional is already testing vehicles in Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Boston, and Singapore. Initially, the vehicles will map the roads, and self-driving tests will be conducted once that stage is completed. The first stage will focus on the Santa Monica area, where Motional has set up an office and an operations facility. Furthermore, Motional will hire people for its new research and development office in San Francisco, so those interested in career opportunities in this field should check out the company's website.
Uber Eats is launching not just one but two autonomous delivery pilots today in Los Angeles, TechCrunch has reported. The first is via an autonomous vehicle partnership with Motional, originally announced in December, and the second is with sidewalk delivery firm Serve Robotics, a company that spun out of Uber itself. The trials will be limited, with deliveries from just a few merchants including the Kreation juicery and organic cafe. Serve will do short delivery routes in West Hollywood, while Motional will take care of longer deliveries in Santa Monica. "We'll be able to learn from both of those pilots what customers actually want, what merchants actually want and what makes sense for delivery," an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch.
Taxis are excellent candidates to become the go-to early use case for self-driving cars in the wild. But to get there, autonomous vehicle developers face a daunting challenge: equipping their cars to meet an array of scenarios than can't be fully anticipated. AI and deep learning tools have been the secret sauce for self-driving car programs, endowing vehicles with the adaptability to face new challenges and learn from them. The most difficult of these challenges are what developer Motional calls "edge situations," and when the goal is to build a safe robotaxi, identifying, and solving for these outliers is a technological imperative. To do this, Motional has developed its own Continuous Learning Framework, or CLF, that helps its vehicles get smarter with each mile they drive.