Today, Uber and Motional announced a cooperation for “autonomous delivery” via Uber Eats. There are, of course, a few caveats.
Despite the fact that Motional (a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv) refused to disclose an exact launch date, the pilot is expected to begin testing as early as “early” 2022. Uber Eats won’t be able to offer the full range of meal items it regularly does. “A curated set of meal kits from chosen restaurants” will be available to customers instead.
A “driverless” vehicle, as this joint venture is called, will not be part of this effort. At some point in the near future, “we will be introducing service with safety operators in the car,” Motional’s representative said. There will be no deliveries outside of Santa Monica, where a substantial chunk of Motional’s crew is based; hence, the service will not be fully autonomous.
Other aspects remain unresolved, such as how many vehicles Motional proposes to install on public roads, or in what weather conditions they can operate.
Initially, Uber planned to turn the semi-professionalized cab drivers into a contingent workforce, and then invest in self-driving vehicles to eliminate all overhead costs. As former CEO Travis Kalanick put it in 2014, “The reason Uber could be pricey is because you’re paying for the other dude in the car.” When there is no other dude in the car, getting an Uber is cheaper. Aurora bought the Advanced Technologies Group, the company’s self-driving division, six years later.
When Uber first started developing self-driving cars, it partnered with companies such as Waymo. With the help of Lyft, Motional will be launching an autonomous fleet in 2023.