Tele-operations platform Scotty Labs announced this morning via a blog post it has been acquired by DoorDash. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Scotty Labs’ current platform allows humans to operate autonomous vehicles via remote control. According to the company’s LinkedIn page, advancing autonomous driving isn’t about removing humans from the equation completely, but letting them instead play a more virtual role in the process. The company previously partnered with Voyage to help them deploy autonomous vehicles around retirement communities. It has also tested a self-driving truck on a California freeway, which you can watch here.
This isn’t DoorDash’s first time working with an autonomous vehicle company. At the beginning of 2019, the delivery company partnered with General Motors’ Cruise Automation to test autonomous vehicles in San Francisco. Going even further back, DoorDash worked with Starship in 2017 to test delivery via semi-autonomous wheeled bots.
The Scotty Labs acquisition comes at a time when DoorDash faces significant scrutiny from the industry. The company received a storm of bad press over its tipping policies, which skim from drivers’ tips to pay their base wage. Although DoorDash said it would change that policy, the company has yet to act on those words.
DoorDash is also rumored to be chasing an IPO, and should that happen, the company will likely face the same struggles around profitability its competitor Uber Eats has experienced.
One way to get closer to actual profitability and avoid controversial tipping policies is to not have to pay human drivers. Only yesterday, The Spoon team was internally discussing the future of third-party delivery, wondering aloud if controversial tipping policies, proposed caps on commission fees, and horror stories from the drivers themselves wouldn’t quickly spur companies towards a more autonomous future. It seems DoorDash is already headed in that direction.