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Motional, the automated driving joint-venture owned by supplier Aptiv

and Hyundai has finally moved into the delivery market. Beginning this week, Hyundai Ioniq 5s using Motional’s automated driving system will begin meal deliveries in Santa Monica, California on the Uber

Eats network.

Until now, Motional and its precursor companies nuTonomy, Delphi and Aptiv have focused their efforts on carrying passengers. Aptiv began operating a robotaxi service with safety drivers on the Lyft

network in Las Vegas in mid-2018 and before that both nuTonomy and Delphi have been involved in pilot first-mile/last-mile programs in Singapore. Motional also recently launched robotaxi operations with a second partner in Las Vegas, Via.


This new pilot marks the first automated delivery program with Uber Eats. Interestingly, Uber Eats never partnered with Uber’s former Advanced Technology Group which was sold off to Aurora Innovation in 2020. While the Uber ride-hailing service and Aurora continue to work on robotaxis, they were not selected for this program.

Motional’s expansion into deliveries makes sense and follows what most of its competitors have already done including Argo AI, Waymo and Cruise. The delivery market is expected to have better operating economics than carrying passengers as well as simplified operations. While passengers tend to want their ride to take the quickest route to a destination, a delivery vehicle can take the easiest, safest route to a destination. This may involve using a slightly longer route that may utilize multiple right hand turns in place of a riskier left.

Merchants using Uber Eats platform will be notified when the Motional vehicle arrives and then place orders into a compartment inserted in the vehicle’s back seat. Customers will get notified when the delivery arrives and then have to go to the curb to get their order from the vehicle. As with previous programs run by Argo and Ford, Motional will be evaluating the user experience of interacting with an automated vehicle. Lessons learned from this test will inform the user interface design of next-generation delivery vehicles. For now, the Motional vehicles will continue to have safety drivers.


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