Whether it be ordering groceries or getting a ride in a taxi, there’s a chance that the vehicle will not have a driver. Automated vehicles are being adopted by many companies in place of human drivers.
Whether it be online shopping or groceries, deliveries are at an all-time high during the pandemic. Many companies are trending towards adopting driverless vehicles to conduct their deliveries for them.
In December, Nuro, a California based company became the first driverless delivery service in the state. The R2 vehicles that will be used will have a top speed of 35mph and will only be available in “fair weather” conditions. The R2 will use radar, thermal imaging and 360-degree cameras to direct the movement of the car. The vehicle does not have a steering wheel, pedals or even side-view mirrors.
The R2 is smaller than most American cars and will have temperature controlled compartments for deliveries. The R2 was tested in April of 2020 in Houston where it was able to deliver pizza for Dominos as well as groceries and goods from Kroger and Walmart. Delivery is not the only thing removing the driver, in Phoenix, Google as rolled out its driverless taxi service as well.
Google’s Waymo service is expanding as it allows more individuals to test their driverless taxi service. A similar test took place prior to being halted by the pandemic, but the company hopes that more people will be enticed to use a driverless option in our current environment. The test group was very limited, but is being opened up to friends and family of the initial testers. Prior to shutting down due to COVID-19 Waymo was providing an estimated 5-10% of the total rides in the testing zone.
For the time being the testing area is limited to 50 square miles in the Phoenix suburbs. There are 600 cars in the Waymo fleet, but it is unclear how many of those are being used in the Phoenix tests. The vehicles will have individuals monitoring them in the situation an intervention is necessary, but only in “extreme circumstances”. Waymo’s next step is expanding across the country and are currently running tests in 25 other locations.
Google is not the only big name attempting to take advantage of driverless vehicles. Walmart has partnered with Canadian based company, Gatik, to bring fully autonomous box trucks to Arkansas in 2021. The testing between the two companies as involved automated vehicles, with a safety driver in the event human intervention was needed. The next step is removing the safety driver all together.
The trials have included a 2-mile route from a Walmart supply center to a Walmart Neighborhood Market. In the last year the trucks have racked up over 70,000 miles on this route, with a safety driver in the cab. The next steps include delivering items from these supply centers to Walmart locations with items specifically ordered by customers and be available for pickup. Walmart has plans to expand to Louisiana and begin trials there with the help of safety drivers. Walmart has and is working with both Nuro and Waymo as well as many others to stay in front of the driverless shift.