Third-party delivery service DoorDash just announced it has partnered with General Motors’ Cruise Automation to test autonomous vehicles in San Francisco.
Cruise has been testing its autonomous vehicles in San Francisco over the last three years. Equipped with Lidar and radar sensors, as well as cameras that take pictures at 10 frames per second, the vehicles can see more of their surroundings at once than a human being would be able to, making it (theoretically) easier to navigate a crowded, complex metropolis like San Francisco. Cruise currently has DMV permits for testing 180 vehicles in the state of California. For the DoorDash partnership, cars will be based on the Chevy Bolt EV.
The pilot program starts in early 2019. Cruise’s vehicles will do the driving, but humans aren’t completely out of the equation: one DoorDash “dasher” will be in the car, to walk the order to the customer’s door. And though DoorDash hasn’t disclosed names of businesses who will participate, a report by Nation’s Restaurant News notes that the pilot will include restaurant meals and groceries.
That said, DoorDash already had a good bit of competition. Domino’s and Ford Motors were testing delivery via autonomous vehicles last year in South Beach, Miami. Postmates was in on that pilot, too. Self-driving car startup AutoX, meanwhile, is piloting autonomous grocery delivery around the Bay Area, and Farmstead has also been running a grocery delivery pilot with Undelv’s autonomous vehicles.
Still, DoorDash raised a total of $785 million in 2018, and gave a call to hire for so-called “moonshot initiatives” like drones, bots, and self-driving cars. All of which is to say, DoorDash clearly has big plans for tech-driven delivery in 2019.