Waymo and Uber Eats start human-less food deliveries in Phoenix

Enlarge / A Waymo Jaguar I-Pace.


Your next food delivery driver may be a robot.

Waymo and Uber have been working together on regular Ubers for a while, but the two companies are now teaming up for food delivery. Automated Uber Eats is rolling out to Waymo’s Phoenix service area. Waymo says this will start in “select merchants in Chandler, Tempe and Mesa, including local favorites like Princess Pita, Filiberto’s, and Bosa Donuts.”

Phoenix Uber Eats customers can fire up the app and order some food, and they might see the message “autonomous vehicles may deliver your order.” Waymo says you’ll be able to opt out of robot delivery at checkout if you want.

Of course, the big difference between human and robot food delivery is that the human driver will take your food door to door, while for the Waymo option, you’ll need to run outside and flag down your robot delivery vehicle when it arrives. Just like regular Uber, you’ll get a notification through the app when it’s time. The food should be in the trunk. If you get paired with a Waymo, your delivery tip will be refunded. Waymo doesn’t explain how the restaurant side of things will work, but inevitably, some poor food server will need to run outside when the Waymo arrives.

It seems pretty wasteful to have a 2-ton, crash-tested vehicle designed to seat five humans delivering a small bag of food, but at least the Jaguar i-Pace Waymos are all-electric. It’s a shame Waymo’s smaller “Firefly” cars were retired. There are smaller, more purpose-built food delivery bots out there—Uber Eats is partnered with Serve Robotics for smaller robot delivery—but these are all sidewalk-cruising, walking-speed robots that can only go a few blocks. The Nuro R3 (Nuro is also partnered with Uber) seems like a good example of what a road-going delivery should look like—it’s designed for food and not people, and it comes with heated or cooled food compartments. Waymo is still the industry leader in automated driving, though.

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