Tech Tracker: DoorDash to deploy self-driving vehicles in San Francisco

Delivery rival Postmates begins testing sidewalk rovers


Nancy Luna, Nation's Restaurant News

Jan 03, 2019


It’s only three days into the new year, and our restaurant industry tech predictions are already coming true.


DoorDash, one of the nation’s leading third-party delivery operators, announced plans to test autonomous vehicle (AV) deliveries in San Francisco. The company is partnering with General Motors-owned Cruise Automation, which has DMV permits for testing 180 vehicles in California.


The pilot program will begin in early 2019 with one vehicle, at first. The intention is to ramp up with “several more” self-driving vehicles within the first six months, DoorDash told Nation’s Restaurant News. 


DoorDash, which works with such restaurant chains as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Jack in the Box and Subway, has declined to name brands participating in the Bay Area pilot.


“At this time, we are not disclosing San Francisco businesses that will be participating in the test,” the company said.


Though the cars are self-driving, they won’t be empty.


During the trial, DoorDash said a company Dasher, or driver, will be a passenger so he or she can bring the delivery order to the door of the consumer. The test includes delivery of ready-made restaurant meals, as well as groceries from supermarket chains that are already partnered with DoorDash.


“As the partnership progresses, we will seek to have customers opt-in to receiving an autonomous vehicle delivery at the curb,” DoorDash said. “Part of the testing phase of this partnership will include learning best user interactions for the customer to retrieve their food from the vehicle.”


Cruise CEO Dan Ammann, named in late November, said partnering with San Francisco-based DoorDash will give the company “critical learnings” from its fleet of self-driving vehicles.


“Delivery is a significant opportunity for Cruise as we prepare to commercialize our autonomous vehicle technology and transform transportation,” Ammann said.


The fleet is based on the Chevy Bolt EV with each car equipped with 10 cameras that take pictures at 10 frames per second. Cruise anticipates launching commercially later this year, spokesman John Taylor said.


Tony Xu, CEO of DoorDash, said the company is excited to be a leader in testing this type of technology.


“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,” he said in a statement.


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