Uber Eats customers in Santa Monica, California, will soon be receiving deliveries from autonomous vehicles. Uber is partnering with driverless technology provider Motional to start autonomous delivery of meal kits from select restaurants in Santa Monica early next year.
It is Uber’s first delivery partnership with an autonomous vehicle provider.
“We’re excited to partner with Motional to test a new kind of delivery for Uber Eats consumers in 2022,” said Sarfraz Maredia, vice president and head of Uber Eats in the U.S. and Canada. “Our consumers and merchant partners have come to expect convenience, reliability and innovation from Uber, and this collaboration represents a huge opportunity to meet — and exceed — those expectations.”
Motional is a joint venture between Hyundai Motor Group (OCTUS: HYMTF) and global technology company Aptiv (NYSE: APTV). The company announced an expansion of its West Coast operations in August, including investments in an operations facility and road testing in Los Angeles, a San Francisco Bay Area office and a doubling of its California team’s size, to support on-road testing of the robotaxi.
The company is using Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 all-electric vehicle to serve as the robotaxi. The Ioniq 5 robotaxi will be used by Uber Eats. It is also the chosen vehicle for Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) to carry passengers beginning in 2023. Lyft has already conducted more than 100,000 paid autonomous rides since 2018.
The interior features a suite of rider-focused interfaces to allow passengers to interact with the vehicle during their ride, such as directing the robotaxi to make an extra stop. Inside, the Ioniq 5 is designed to provide more space for riders, including a flat floor and movable center console.
The Ioniq 5 is based on Hyundai’s electric global modular platform and features fast charging that can charge the vehicle’s battery packs — either a 58-kWh or 72.6-kWh option — from 10% to 80% in 18 minutes using a 350-kW charger. A five-minute charge provides 62 miles of range, Hyundai said.
Full range with the 72.6-kWh battery is nearly 300 miles.
While plans to use the Ioniq 5 robotaxi for passengers, the agreement with Uber Eats represents the first use case of it in delivery applications.
“Today, Motional enters the autonomous delivery market,” said Karl Iagnemma, Motional’s president and CEO. “We’re proud that our first delivery partner is Uber and are eager to begin using our trusted driverless technology to offer efficient and convenient deliveries to customers in California. We’re confident this will be a successful collaboration with Uber and see many long-term opportunities for further deploying Motional’s technology across the Uber platform.”
In a blog post, Iagnemma said the robotaxi is entering the market at the right time.
“The combined U.S. market for driverless robotaxi and food delivery service is expected to exceed $115 billion by 2030. Demand for food delivery has doubled since the start of the pandemic, and the use of mobile food delivery apps is up more than 20% this year,” he wrote before noting that partnerships like this one with Uber Eats represent a fast way to bring the technology to market. “While we continue to explore new use cases for our technology, on-demand delivery presents the greatest market opportunity while being most closely aligned with Motional’s existing robotaxi technology. This enables us to bring value to our customers faster.”