Chinese Startup Pony.ai Introduces Contactless Delivery Using Autonomous Cars
If there's one positive thing about the coronavirus, it's that it's proven that autonomous vehicles have a place on roads. While the majority of the United States is under a stay-at-home order and have to follow social distancing guidelines, autonomous vehicles with the ability to deliver packages without any contact and without anyone having to be behind the wheel paint a picture of how items can be delivered safely during a pandemic. Doing just that, Chinese autonomous vehicle start-up Pony.ai is launching a delivery service in Irvine, California.
Expanding Autonomous Services
As CNBC reports, Pony.ai introduced a robo-taxi service in Irvine last year with some help from Hyundai. The partnership saw Pony.ai fit its technology to Hyundai Konas. The self-driving taxi service came to a halt earlier this March when the state of California went into a "shelter-in-place" order. Now, Pony.ai and 10 of its autonomous vehicles are back. But instead of moving people from one location to another, the vehicles are delivering packages.
Teaming up with e-commerce business Yamibuy that's based in Los Angeles, the two are partnering together to focus on delivering essential goods and groceries for individuals to make staying at home a little easier. The way the autonomous delivery service works is fairly simple. Once a customer puts an order on Yamibuy, an autonomous vehicle picks the package up and delivers it to the destination. The customer can choose to come to the vehicle to pick the package up or an operator who's in the car will drop it at the doorstep, ensuring a contactless delivery.
Helping Relieve Some Pressure
Since the coronavirus outbreak, grocery stores and Amazon have shifted gears to focus on delivering essential items, like food, cleaning supplies, and toiletries. They've been slammed with orders and have been having a difficult time keeping up with deliveries. Yamibuy, which sells a variety of products including food, clothes, and cosmetics, is looking to relieve some stress that other companies are currently facing with its delivery service.
The delivery service is expected to run through the summer and should give Pony.ai valuable data on how its autonomous technology works. Sure, the service is only in one city and on a small scale, but there's nothing like getting real-world experience. It would also give Pony.ai a leg up on the competition when the coronavirus pandemic finally comes to an end. Outside of the U.S., Pony.ai is testing its driverless cars in Beijing and Guangzhou.
Pony.ai isn't alone in starting a self-driving delivery service in California recently. Nuro recently began using its autonomous pods to transport medical supplies around locations surrounding two California stadiums that have been converted into treatment facilities to help coronavirus patients.
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