Delivery: Motional now has driverless delivery cars operating in Santa Monica. Courtesy image

Do you like food but hate people? Does your sandwich deserve a more luxurious ride to you than you do to the store? Are the City’s existing delivery drones just too small for you to take seriously?

Then Santa Monica has a service for you. 

Motional, a driverless car company with offices in Santa Monica, has begun offering food delivery through Uber Eats. The offering is an expansion for Motional who have been working on driverless taxi service for several years. 

“Autonomous delivery signifies the next phase of Motional’s commercial roadmap,” said Abe Ghabra, Motional’s Chief Operating Officer. “This service will provide the learnings and experience needed to make Motional the trusted [Autonomous Vehicle) provider for on-demand delivery networks. We’re proud to partner with Uber on this important milestone and begin introducing Uber Eats customers to autonomous technology.”

Motional has had a presence in Santa Monica for over five years and has said the area is a good fit for the industry as it combines access to a strong pool of talent with a unique driving environment that their systems can benefit from. In addition to food delivery, the company previously announced it would double its 100 person Santa Monica workforce to accommodate the testing of an autonomous taxi service.

Over the years, the company was the first to drive a fully-autonomous vehicle cross-country and had the world’s first robotaxi pilot in Singapore. They currently operate a public robotaxi fleet in Las Vegas and will be expanding that service to include pooled rides. They are also on track to launch a fully driverless robotaxi service (with no one behind the wheel) with Lyft in multiple U.S. markets.

The delivery vehicles are a variation on the company’s all electric taxis and Motional said it has spent months preparing for the launch. 

Participating merchants will receive a notification when the car arrives, meet the vehicle at the designated pick-up location, and place the order in a specially-designed compartment in the backseat. Upon arrival at the drop-off location, the customer will receive an alert, securely unlock the vehicle door via the Uber Eats app, and collect their order from the backseat.

The service will allow Motional and Uber to study the integration of their technologies, consumer demand, the user interactions with the vehicle, and additional autonomy features needed to enable autonomous deliveries.

Uber sees driverless vehicles playing a long-term role on its platform, across a variety of use cases, and plans to be an accelerator in bringing this innovative technology to its customers.

“At Uber, we’re always looking for ways to use new technology to help consumers go anywhere and get anything,” said Noah Zych, Global GM for Uber’s Autonomous Mobility and Delivery business. “We’re thrilled to begin piloting with Motional in California and are eager to see how their promising autonomous technology will begin to change how people and goods move throughout the world for the better.”

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...