- Delivery company DoorDash will partner with General Motors’ (GM) autonomous vehicle (AV) unit Cruise on a food delivery pilot program in San Francisco starting in March, the companies announced.
- The companies said they are looking to explore the technical and infrastructure challenges in autonomous delivery, how the service can help vendors and customers, and if it will help efficiency and quality. Cruise has been testing AVs in San Francisco for the past three years.
- "To begin, we’ve built a runner system to move orders from the merchant to the autonomous vehicle," Penn Daniel, DoorDash’s special projects operations lead, wrote in a blog post. "Then, the customer will be notified when the autonomous vehicle is approaching the customer address."
This announcement represents another move by an automaker to experiment with a commercial AV service, and is a major step for Cruise, which up to this point had only publicly floated plans for an autonomous ride-hailing service. Meanwhile, Ford has been much more aggressive in looking to roll out new business opportunities for AV usage, announcing tests in Washington, DC that it said could result in ride-hailing and food delivery and are intended to start as early as this year. Waymo has also started an autonomous taxi service in metropolitan Phoenix.
Cruise had already been testing its AVs in San Francisco for three years, which the company described as "a complex and intricate city." Cruise should hopefully have mapped out all the infrastructure and any potential obstacles and hazards to avoid any mishaps that have affected AVs, such as the fatal collision with a pedestrian in Tempe, AZ.
Last year, automakers held up 2019 as a year when AVs would take off in cities, and this first step could be a big one for GM and Cruise, which promised to launch a driverless car with no steering wheel or pedals sometime this year. This launch could portend further moves in that space, while it also represents another step into autonomy for delivery companies, which are sending out robots onto the streets of Dallas and Los Angeles, with a view to expansion in the near future. A partnership between a major delivery company and a major automaker could help shift AV rollout into a high gear, demonstrating where they can be used in everyday situations.