Your Food May Soon Be Delivered By A Driverless Car

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We all know the feeling — coming home feeling tired after a long day at work and as a result, you’ve found no will to get up and cook yourself a good mean. Many people, myself included, find themselves ordering food for delivery when we are not in the mood to make food or drive to a restaurant. And when that food arrives in about half an hour, so does that euphoric moment.

DoorDash is one of the most preferred on-demand food delivery services in the U.S. and has raised more than $700 million over several financing rounds, as well as currently being valued at $1.4 billion in 2018. As DoorDash continues to garner money from investors such as SoftBank and Sequoia Capital, it has just struck a partnership with General Motors to enhance food delivery with self-driving cars.

Cruise Automation was an autopilot system startup that was bought by General Motors in 2016 for $1 billion, and the startup has been producing the driverless cars for the century-old GM ever since. Cruise’s new self-driving car, which is expected to come out this year, is going to be a part of a pilot food delivery program that will be run in conjunction with General Motors in San Francisco and will involve delivering meals from grocery stores and restaurants.

According to CNBC, Cruise CEO Dan Amman said in a statement, “Delivery is a significant opportunity for Cruise as we prepare to commercialize our autonomous vehicle technology and transform transportation”. Ammann also mentioned that the partnership with DoorDash will develop technology that will make “people’s lives better and more convenient”.

The partnership between General Motors and DoorDash isn’t the first collaboration between a renowned motor company and a food service organization. Early last year, Ford teamed up with Domino’s and Postmates test out Domino’s and Postmates’ deliveries with Ford’s own self-driving cars in Miami, with Argo AI and Ford testing out the first fleet of Ford Fusion hybrids and the second fleet mainly composed of a variety of Ford vehicles that also test out how consumers interact and react to deliveries.

During the tests in San Francisco, the Cruise team will have a “safety driver” in the automated Chevrolet Bolt EV who will only take over the steering if there is an emergency. The purpose of the test program is to see how the DoorDash customers will respond when there is no delivery person involved and if it does work out, GM might consider the possibility of offering a driverless taxi service as well.

General Motors has stated in the past that self-driving cars have the potential to be the “next big thing” as the automotive company plans to mass-produce fully autonomous cars by the end of 2019. The automotive company had also said their potential ride-sharing service could be bigger than the cars that are sold by them although establishing the ride-sharing service can also mean that each self-driving car would cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, not every DoorDash user in San Francisco are eligible to try out the pilot program as DoorDash selects a group of users who will get an opportunity to try it out and see if the delivery service will be ready for the general public to use. The selected group of DoorDash users will get to choose which grocery store or restaurant they want to order their food from and after they have paid for it, there will be a person in the car to drop off the food and that is all for them to do.

Currently, Cruise has around 160 self-driving vehicles registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, alongside with 400 safety drivers who operate in some of San Francisco’s busiest neighborhoods. However, the only people that are able to operate the vehicles are the employees of Cruise themselves as the startup still does not have a license to operate a ridesharing service.

The current trend that General Motors is currently heading towards right now in regards to producing autonomous vehicles is in contrast to the company’s current performances in car sales lately. Over the past six months, General Motors’ shares have declined 18.3 percent compared with a 12.3 percent decrease recorded by the automotive industry.

According to Business Insider, DoorDash CEO Tony Xu said, “We see autonomous vehicles playing a major role in the future of delivery as consumer behaviors continue to shift online, and we are confident Cruise's leading technology will help us scale to meet growing consumer demand”. Xu mentions that the technology that is used in the autonomous vehicles of Cruise will increase the popularity of on-demand food delivery services conducted by self-driving cars among consumers who regularly order food online.

The partnership between General Motors and DoorDash is an opportunity to bring innovative changes to the food delivery industry and although this pilot program is only tested in San Francisco, its success can inspire future collaborative efforts between other automotive companies and food courier services worldwide. Self-driving cars can be the choice of vehicle for commercial use one day, especially in tech-savvy areas such as Silicon Valley and the Pacific Northwest, and it all has to do with the ability of the cars to know where to pick up the food and who they will deliver the food to.