The company says it has received regulatory approval to begin tests of delivering food by drone in the San Diego, California area. Announced at the company's Uber Elevate Summit, the plans initially call for the drone deliveries to occur at safe drop-off locations where an Uber Eats driver would then complete the order.
In the future, says the company, it hopes to land the drones on parked vehicles located near each delivery location to allow the final delivery by hand.
"Our goal is to expand Uber Eats drone delivery so we can provide more options to more people at the tap of a button," says Luke Fischer, head of flight operations at Uber Elevate. "We believe that Uber is uniquely positioned to take on this challenge as we're able to leverage the Uber Eats network of restaurant partners and delivery partners as well as the aviation experience and technology of Uber Elevate."
Initial testing in San Diego was done with fast food giant McDonald's, and will be expanded to include additional Uber Eats restaurants later this year. The drone service is part of the company's aerial ride-sharing network and, says the company, will provide data that will help manage its air network and eventually allow the aircraft to operate autonomously.
In a separate announcement, the company unveiled its newest self-driving vehicle produced by Volvo Cars. It's the third car the companies have developed together and, says Uber, it's the first production car capable of fully driving itself.
The new production XC90 SUV will be assembled by Volvo Cars in Sweden and include human controls like steering wheels and brake pedals, but also factory-installed redundant steering and braking systems designed for computer control.
"When paired with Volvo's vehicle platform," says Uber Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), "Uber's robust self-driving system will one day allow for safe, reliable, autonomous ridesharing, without the need for a specially trained Uber employee operating and overseeing the car, known today as a Mission Specialist. This process will begin in small, pre-determined geographies in the cities ATG operates in and will grow over time as the vehicle’s capabilities expand."
The car will feature a fully integrated passenger app placed at the center of its luxury interior, creating an informative and dynamic way for passengers to experience their self-driving trip. Environmental controls, trip details, and safety functions, including requests for assistance, are easily accessible from the app, ensuring riders' comfort, says the company.
"Working in close partnership with companies like Volvo Cars is key to effectively building a safe and scalable self-driving network," says the company. "With the introduction of this vehicle into Uber ATG's fleet, we are one step closer to thousands of autonomous, drive-ready production cars in the coming years."
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