The Hyundai-Aptiv Driving Joint Venture, a collaboration between Hyundai and startup Aptiv to develop autonomous vehicle technologies, is using driverless vehicles in Las Vegas to deliver food to families in partnership with a nonprofit. In a conversation with VentureBeat last week, CEO Karl Iagnemma described the effort as “a way to try to give back to the community.”
“We recently started doing meal delivery in Las Vegas about a week and a half ago,” he said. “It’s not about changing our business model. But with that said, looking toward the future, delivery is an area that we will devote attention to.”
Three of the company’s driverless BMW 5 series cars — which are equipped with lidar sensors, radars, and RGB cameras — are supporting Delivering with Dignity, a program launched in March by Clark County officials that aims to provide meals to vulnerable families at risk of contracting coronavirus. On a weekly basis from Monday to Friday, safety drivers are making contactless deliveries from restaurants including Buddy V’s at the Venetian, Valencian Gold, and Honey Salt Restaurant, wearing personal protective equipment at all times to ensure their safety.
Deliveries are being made throughout the Valley and are anticipated to continue as long as pandemic continues. Iagnemma says there aren’t currently plans to expand, but that the Hyundai-Aptiv Driving Joint Venture intends to work with Delivering with Dignity in the future.
As of May 6, the organization’s over 690 volunteers had delivered over 26,500 meals
“The delivery use case is one that I think is an outstanding application of autonomous vehicles for obvious reasons, and it’s one that we can adapt our core technology to address,” added Iagnemma. “Today, we’ve been focused on moving people, but … we look forward to being able to apply our [systems] to a number of other use cases, potentially including [commercial] delivery.”
Roughly two years ago, Lyft partnered with Aptiv to launch a fleet of autonomous vehicles on the former’s network in Las Vegas. A product of Aptiv’s mobility and services group, the vehicles — which were grounded as a result of the pandemic — became available to the public beginning May 2018 on an opt-in basis.
Aptiv has historically highlighted its work with local governments and transit agencies — including Clark County, the City of Las Vegas, and the Regional Transportation Commission. It also noted that its Command Center — which furnishes its development team with data like vehicle health and diagnostics, vehicle ride status, and popular ride times and locations — enables it to keep vehicles on the road while serving passengers, complementing its 130,000-square-foot garage with full-calibration lab spaces and car chargers.
Beyond its joint operation with Lyft and Hyundai partnership, Aptiv is piloting autonomous vehicles across Boston, Singapore, Las Vegas, and Pittsburgh. That’s in addition to its autonomous mobility center in Shanghai, which opened this past year and out of which the company is testing cars in major Chinese cities.
The Hyundai-Aptiv Driving Joint Venture is only the latest autonomous vehicle company to redeploy its cars for delivery amid the pandemic.
Since mid-April, Cruise has been delivering food from San Francisco-Marin Food Bank and San Francisco New Deal to seniors in need, and Pony.ai’s cars are delivering groceries from ecommerce startup Yamibuy and working with the city of Fremont to distribute meals to a local emergency shelter program. Nuro’s latest R2 vehicles are transporting medical supplies to temporary coronavirus medical facilities in Sacramento and San Mateo County. And Beep in partnership with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and shuttle maker Navya is continuing to transport coronavirus tests at the Mayo Clinic campus in Florida.
Elsewhere, startup Neolix says its vans have delivered medical supplies and supplemented labor shortages in areas within China hit hardest by coronavirus, as well as delivering food to health workers who are caring for patients. Starship Technologies and KiwiBot autonomous delivery robots are delivering sanitary supplies, masks, antibacterial gels, and hygiene products in communities around the U.S. And self-driving truck company TuSimple is offering a free service for food banks in Texas and Arizona.
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