If you order food in West Hollywood or Santa Monica, you might have the option to get it delivered by a rolling sidewalk robot or an autonomous car.
Robots! — Uber is partnering with Serve Robotics and Motional for the two pilots. Serve’s sidewalk robot (originally Postmates Serve, before Uber spun-off the company) will handle shorter deliveries in West Hollywood, while Motional’s autonomous (with two safety drivers) Hyundai Ioniq 5 handles longer delivery trips in Santa Monica, TechCrunch writes.
The experience for anyone ordering through the Uber Eats app shouldn’t be drastically different from a delivery completed by a human driver. In the staged demo Uber showed, you a receive a notification that Serve’s robot has arrived, tap a touchscreen under the robot’s Lidar sensor, enter a PIN to unlock the robot’s lid, grab your food, and go.
Motional’s description of deliveries made using its autonomous vehicles sound like they’ll work similarly. You meet the car in a designated pickup spot (the safety drivers can takeover for drop-offs that are just outside the car’s range), “securely unlock the vehicle door via the Uber Eats app,” and take your order.
Uber in recovery — Despite in many ways getting everything it ever wanted, Uber is still struggling to make its ride-hailing business profitable. A recent decision to slow hiring is the latest way the company is trying to cut costs, but getting out of developing autonomous vehicles of its own back in 2020 was another.
That doesn’t change the fact that robotic deliveries still seem like one of the shiniest baubles Uber can hold out to bring in new customers and investors, which makes these new pilots make a lot more sense.