AutoX, the startup that made a splash last year with its self-driving grocery delivery + mobile-commerce solution, expanded into the hot food delivery space, and is now working with 14 restaurants in the San Jose area.

When it launched its first pilot, AutoX caught our eye because the company wasn’t just making straight grocery deliveries. It also outfitted its self-driving cars with li’l mini-marts in the backseat of the vehicles, so people could make additional purchases on the spot.

AutoX quietly expanded into restaurant delivery about a month ago, and at the recent CES show in Las Vegas, its autonomous cars delivered food from Applebee’s to hungry press and attendees. According to Li, one of the reasons AutoX likes restaurant delivery is that it can easily make multiple deliveries, reducing the amount of time the car spends empty.

Another reason hot food is appealing is that when a driverless car arrives with your groceries, there is no driver to help you carry them in. Hauling heavy bags of groceries could be a problem for older people or those living many flights of stairs up. You don’t exactly have to lug a burger and fries.

That’s not to say AutoX is abandoning its grocery roots. Far from it. Li says that they will just adapt their platform accordingly. “We’re exploring how to better use our technology,” said Li, “Maybe we don’t deliver to apartment buildings for groceries, or we do some kind of reward for coming downstairs.”

Additionally, the company is bringing its self-driving technology to minivans, which would allow it to make multiple grocery deliveries along one route.

There is increased competition for AutoX, however, on all sides and in its own back yard. On the restaurant front, DoorDash recently started testing self-driving car deliveries in San Francisco. For groceries, Udelv uses autonomous delivery vans to deliver food from Farmstead. And elsewhere in the Bay Area, Robomart just announced a self-driving mobile commerce partnership with Stop & Shop.

AutoX, however, may wind up partnering with some of its competition down the road. Right now the AutoX app serves as the marketplace for users to place restaurant orders, but eventually, Li said, the company’s self-driving fleet could be a delivery option for customers on a different platform like Uber Eats or DoorDash.

AutoX is part of a larger automation trend disrupting and transforming the food industry. If you’re interested in how self-driving technology and other food robotics will shape the meal journey, be sure to attend out Articulate summit in San Francisco on April 16!.

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