Uber and self-driving car company Motional have announced a partnership for autonomous food deliveries through Uber Eats.
The beta program is slated to launch sometime in early 2022. That’s though Motional (which is itself a partnership between Hyundai and Aptiv) didn’t provide further details about the timing.
Also, the full range of dining options normally available through Uber Eats will not be available. Instead, customers choose from a curated selection of meal combinations from select restaurants.
This joint venture would not be driverless per se. A Motional spokesperson said we are launching the service with the safety operators in the vehicle.
Deliveries of the non-standalone meal kit are limited to Santa Monica, California, where a large part of the Motional team works, according to the Arabic tech news portal.
The partnership represents the first steps in shaping the industry for both companies. Motional is expanding on driverless delivery. This is Uber’s first delivery partnership with a self-driving vehicle technology provider.
Motional’s all-electric vehicles deliver a curated selection of meal combinations from select Uber Eats restaurants.
Motional uses its next-generation self-driving car, the all-electric Hyundai IONIQ 5, with in-vehicle modifications to enable autonomous deliveries.
This is the first time Tier 4 Motional vehicles have been used for delivery applications.
Under its original leadership, Uber initially planned to transform the workforce of semi-professional taxi drivers into a workforce, and then eliminated these overhead costs entirely by investing in self-driving vehicles.
“The reason Uber is so expensive is because you’re paying for the other guy in the car,” former CEO Travis Kalanick said in 2014. When there’s no other guy in the car, it’s cheaper to ride an Uber anywhere.
Six years later, the company sold its self-driving arm, known as Advanced Technology Group, to Aurora.
Uber has since sought partnerships with third-party self-driving companies, such as Waymo. Motional has an ongoing partnership with Uber’s main competitor, Lyft, to launch a self-driving fleet in 2023.