It started with pizzas and Walmart groceries delivered in a self-driving car from Ford. Now robot-driven food is catching on with even more new companies and apps. GM’s Cruise is working with food delivery service DoorDash to bring your meal from a restaurant to your front door. It’s Cruise’s first foray into food delivery.
The two companies announced Thursday that “select customers” in the San Francisco area would soon get to experience autonomous food delivery from one merchant with one self-driving vehicle. More vehicles and restaurants are expected to join in the next six months. DoorDash didn’t specify which restaurant would kick off the autonomous deliveries, but it could be pizza again, like Ford’s Domino’s Pizza partnership.
This is part of Cruise’s self-driving testing in the city where it plans to have a ride-hailing service, like Uber, with self-driving cars by the end of this year. When someone orders a meal from DoorDash it could come in a Cruise car. Safety operators will still be in the front seats. The companies said grocery deliveries could be a future program.
In a blog post, DoorDash explained, “we’ve built a runner system to move orders from the merchant to the autonomous vehicle. Then, the customer will be notified when the autonomous vehicle is approaching the customer address.”
Cruise is frequently spotted throughout the city as it tests its autonomous Chevy Bolts. At the end of last year, Zoox became the first autonomous vehicle company in California to receive a permit to drive passengers around. It’s like Google’s self-driving car spinoff company, Waymo, that’s taxiing select riders in self-driving vehicles in the Phoenix area, except the California company can’t charge passengers for the rides and safety operators are required in the vehicle. So no true driverless rides yet.
Meanwhile at University of the Pacific’s Stockton campus, PepsiCo on Thursday announced the launch of a “snackbot,” which is exactly like it sounds. A robot that roves around dropping off snacks like chips, water, juice, and iced tea. By using an app, students can grab snacks stored in the robot. Bay Area-based Robby Technologies built the fleet of self-driving robots.
The cooler-like box on wheels is reminiscent of the exploding delivery robot seen on the UC Berkeley campus last month. Postmates also introduced Serve, a wide-eyed food delivery bot, in December.
The snackbots are here.
An inside look at the snackbot.
Looks like the snack-delivering robots keep coming.