GM and DoorDash to deliver food in self-driving cars

Some year soon, the late-night food delivery from your local restaurant might arrive at your front door with...

Posted: Jan 5, 2019 6:10 PM
Updated: Jan 5, 2019 6:10 PM

Some year soon, the late-night food delivery from your local restaurant might arrive at your front door without the delivery guy. General Motors' subsidiary Cruise Automation, which makes technology for self-driving cars, has teamed up with food delivery company DoorDash to test out driverless deliveries.

During the tests, there will a be a "safety driver" in the automated Chevrolet Bolt EV, but that person will be there only to take over in the event of an emergency. The car will mostly drive on its own. The test program will take place within San Francisco, where Cruise is based.

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Ford has also been testing so-called driverless deliveries in partnership with Domino's Pizza and online food delivery company Postmates in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Miami. But, in Ford's case, the cars are driven by humans and only look like driverless vehicles. In Ford's tests, the drivers are instructed not to interact with customers. The purpose of those tests is to see how customers respond to deliveries when there is no delivery person involved.

GM has said that it hopes to someday offer a driverless taxi service, but driverless deliveries are another avenue for it to profit from automated cars.

"Delivery is a significant opportunity for Cruise as we prepare to commercialize our autonomous vehicle technology and transform transportation," said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann. "Partnering with DoorDash will provide us with critical learnings as we further our mission to deliver technology that makes people's lives better and more convenient."

Ammann had, until recently, been president of General Motors but was named CEO of Cruise on November 29. Cruise cofounder Kyle Vogt, who had been CEO, has stayed with the company as chief technology officer.

Selected DoorDash customers in San Francisco will be able to order meals from local restaurants or fresh grocery items and have them delivered by Cruise automated cars. DoorDash and Cruise will use the program to evaluate operational and safety aspects of automated delivery programs, the companies said in an announcement.

GM has said that it intends to make autonomous ride sharing a big part of its future business. The automaker plans to mass produce self-driving cars and operate them in fleets.

Some time this year, GM plans to begin offering rides in its automated cars to paying customers. But, for now, food will be the passenger. It is not clear whether tips will be expected.

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