GM Cruise, DoorDash partner for autonomous food delivery

They'll deliver takeout and groceries in San Francisco

General Motors placed a big vote of confidence in Cruise Automation late last year when GM President Dan Ammann took over as CEO of the autonomous driving subsidiary. Now Cruise, which has been testing autonomous cars on public roads since 2016, is taking the next step, partnering with delivery service DoorDash. Together, Cruise and DoorDash will begin deliveries of food and groceries to customers in San Francisco as part of a pilot program.

The test, which kicks off early this year, will begin by delivering restaurant food to select DoorDash customers using Cruise autonomous vehicles. Later, the partners seek to expand the program to deliver groceries from select DoorDash grocers using the driverless cars.

It seems like a natural partnership. GM and Cruise, which use modified Chevy Bolt EVs as test vehicles, stand to gather valuable data by putting their autonomous cars to use in a real-world application. "Delivery is a significant opportunity for Cruise as we prepare to commercialize our autonomous vehicle technology and transform transportation," said 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."

Likewise, DoorDash benefits from testing a new way to make deliveries in the growing world of Internet commerce. As 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."

That's not to say it won't be without challenges. The California DMV has released its list of disengagement reports from 2018 yet, but in 2017, Cruise noted a number of driver interventions each month as its cars navigated the streets of San Francisco. Many of these were listed as "precautionary," while many others were due to "Other road user[s] behaving poorly." As long as autonomous vehicles still share the road with humans, who are prone to human error and emotion, testing autonomous vehicles in public remains a tricky prospect. Particularly as fallible humans remain the failsafe.

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