Cruise Automation, the self-driving division of General Motors, has joined forces with DoorDash to assess a food delivery service in San Francisco using autonomous cars. The pilot program is expected to begin soon but will only be available in certain areas of the city.
The announcement was made just two days after Dan Ammann took over as the company’s president and has been interpreted as a sign that GM is testing self-driving vehicles prior to the launch of its ride-sharing service, which had been scheduled for this year.
The pilot program will use Cruise’s self-driving Chevy Bolt vehicles to make deliveries for grocery stores and restaurants for DoorDash in San Francisco. Cruise has 180 cars registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and more than 400 safety drivers. Since Cruise doesn’t have a license to operate a ride-sharing service yet, the vehicles are driven by the company’s employees. The DoorDash collaboration will allow Cruise to test a commercial operation before it begins picking up passengers.
DoorDash will make autonomous food deliveries with help from GM https://t.co/lO1OvfHLvu— Engadget (@engadget) January 3, 2019
“As part of the program, select DoorDash customers will receive deliveries from their favorite restaurants via a Cruise autonomous vehicle. In addition to ready-made restaurant meals, the partnership will also explore grocery fulfillment via Cruise vehicles for select grocers already partnered with DoorDash. DoorDash and Cruise expect to evaluate and develop safety, operational, and other learnings in the pilot,” DoorDash said in a statement.
DoorDash, founded in 2013 by Stanford students Andy Fang, Stanley Tang, Tony Xu and Evan Moore, offers food delivery from restaurants and grocery stores on-demand. In March 2017, DoorDash partnered with Jack in the Box to deliver food, and in April 2018, the company joined forces with Chipotle Mexican Grill to deliver their orders.
Cruise isn’t the only autonomous vehicle operator looking into robot delivery. Ford will test self-driving trucks with Walmart, Instacart, and Domino’s Pizza. Also startups, like Nuro in Arizona, are already using robot delivery vehicles in Arizona.
Aside from testing in San Francisco, GM is developing two purpose-built self-driving vehicles. One is based on the Chevy Bolt EV model and has no steering wheel or pedal, and another is being designed with Honda. Honda has announced that it will invest $2 billion in the next 12 years, while Cruise has pledged $750 million.
GM’s core business is currently being restructured. The automaker is expected to lay off thousands of workers and close four US plants. The company will also halt production of low-selling models, such as the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt. GM hopes to effectively compete in the race to develop and deploy self-driving cars. Ford has announced that it will develop an autonomous vehicle steering wheel or pedals by 2021, while Waymo debuted a limited commercial ride-sharing service in Phoenix last year.