The Fuse

This Week In AVs: Domino’s, Nuro Team Up To Deliver Pizzas; Cruise Expands To Dubai; And More

by Madeline Murphy | April 15, 2021

Domino’s and Nuro partner on driverless pizza delivery
This week, autonomous grocery delivery company announced its partnership with Domino’s Pizza to launch a driverless pizza delivery service in Houston, capitalizing on high demand for delivery service needs during the pandemic. Following this initial service in Houston, Nuro anticipates this long-term partnership will expand into cities all over the United States. In a blog post, Nuro said the deployment of this project is an early step in the company’s wider plans to create a system of AV deliveries that cater to a wider range of products and communities. Dave Ferguson, co-founder of Nuro, says that one of the inspirations behind Nuro’s partnership with Domino’s is “to build an equitable and accessible future with the promise of lower emissions, safer streets, and more communities that participate in the economic growth of autonomous delivery.”

The Nuro-Domino’s announcement comes after last month’s news that Chipotle is investing in Nuro to bolster its delivery network, and was followed by reports that Chick-fil-A is trialing its own driverless delivery service in Santa Monica, California with Kiwibot, a small semi-autonomous delivery bot. Kiwibot believes its driverless option cuts down costs of delivery by 50 percent, with plans to expand the pilot if successful.

Cruise Taking Its AV Operations To Dubai
Cruise, GM’s majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary, has announced that it will expand its operations internationally to Dubai beginning in 2023. Cruise will be Dubai’s exclusive provider for self-driving taxis and ride-hailing services through 2029. This deal will allow Cruise to establish a Dubai-based company that will take on the responsibility of deployment, operation and maintenance of the autonomous fleet, while helping Dubai reach its goal of converting 25 percent of trips in the city to self-driving transport by 2030.

Cruise is known to many as the first AV company that began fully-driverless testing of its vehicles in the complex urban environment of San Francisco in December 2020. In the past, Cruise and GM executives have explained that Cruise will launch its commercial service in San Francisco, before expanding elsewhere. Some industry watchers believe that the deal between Dubai and Cruise signals confidence, and perhaps a possibility that the deployment of robotaxis in San Francisco may happen before 2023. This was confirmed by CEO Dan Ammann in a Bloomberg interview, adding that it was possible to infer a U.S. launch in San Francisco between 2021 and 2023.

Mobileye to launch driverless delivery service in 2023
Mobileye, a subsidiary of Intel, is anticipating a busy 2023 after a recent announcement that it is partnering with Udelv, a self-driving delivery startup, to launch a full-scale fully driverless delivery service by 2023. The news follows February that Mobileye’s February announcement that they would be partnering with two French companies, Transdev Autonomous Transport System and Lohr Group, to develop and deploy commercial autonomous shuttles for public transportation services—also by 2023.

Mobileye recently told media that these partnerships underscore that company’s readiness for commercialization. Jack Weast, vice president of automated vehicle standards at Mobileye, explained, the Udelv delivery service will be launched with zero geographical barriers. “What this announcement really underscores is the commercial maturity and readiness of the Mobileye self driving system solution. It is ready to scale at large, across tens of thousands of vehicles, multiple states, all the retail store partners in all cities, not geofenced or limited in any way.” 

Consolidation anticipated to continue in AV industry as costs rise
As early optimism on swift AV deployment gave way to longer timelines, it has become clear that AV companies require massive amounts of capital in order to commercialize. Asad Hussain, a mobility analyst at PitchBook explains, “It’s more technologically difficult and capital-intensive than people realize. To really commercialize at scale, we think you need $6 billion to $10 billion for technical development.” TuSimple, Argo AI and more have all sought to raise money through SPACs and IPOs in order to increase funding for commercialization, and even Alphabet’s Waymo has sought extra funds through external funding rounds.

Mike Ramsey, a senior mobility and transportation analyst at Gartner and the lead author behind the company’s 2018 “Hype Cycle for Connected Vehicles and Smart Mobility” report, explains that the combination of lagging technology maturity, and lack of capital are the reasons behind industry consolidation. Ramsey says, “Top-tier companies will be acquired, second-tier companies will change directions and bottom-tier companies will just run out of money.” Many in the industry predict that these consolidations will keep coming.