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Online food delivery company shifts into driverless delivery

DoorDash is taking the concept of automated delivery for a spin.

The company is partnering with General Motors’ Cruise Automation self-driving vehicle division to pilot online food deliveries using driverless cars. Starting in March, the duo will use autonomous vehicles to deliver meal and grocery orders in San Francisco.

The deliveries will not completely remove humans from the process. A runner system will get orders from participating restaurants and grocers to the autonomous vehicles. Customers will then be notified when the vehicle is approaching the address.

According to DoorDash, the pilot is designed to determine what key technical and infrastructure challenges exist with autonomous delivery, how autonomous delivery can positively impact merchants, DoorDash contractors and customers, and whether autonomous vehicles capable of achieving DoorDash delivery quality standards.

DoorDash and Cruise are both making it clear they expect this pilot to be the beginning of something much bigger.

“In partnership with Cruise Automation, we look forward to scaling and improving the delivery experience for our merchants, dashers, and customers,” Penn Daniel, special projects operations lead of DoorDash, said in a blog post.

“Delivery is a significant opportunity for Cruise as we prepare to commercialize our autonomous vehicle technology and transform transportation," said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann. "Partnering with DoorDash will provide us with critical learnings as we further our mission to deliver technology that makes people's lives better and more convenient."

Driverless delivery appears to be an idea whose time has come. Kroger is offering driverless delivery to all its customers in Scottsdale, Arizona. Meanwhile, Walmart is partnering with Ford Motor Co. and Postmates to test self-driving vehicles to deliver fresh groceries in Florida’s Miami-Dade County.
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