The Fuse

This Week In AVs: Driverless KFC Restaurants Roll Out In China; Gatik Brings First AV Delivery Fleet To Canada; And More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | November 26, 2020

Mobile KFC Restaurants Roll Out In China
With little announcement, autonomous vehicles selling Kentucky Fried Chicken dubbed “restaurants on wheels” have been spotted on Chinese streets. Twitter users in Shanghai first noted the vehicles outside subway stops last week, which provides hot chicken paid for through a QR code. Although neither company has yet confirmed they are behind the rollout, the AVs appear to be part of a partnership between a Chinese delivery bot manufacturer Neolix and Yum Brands, which owns KFC.

The rollout of driverless KFC vehicles represents a recognition of the benefits that autonomous, contactless delivery provides for consumers, particularly during the pandemic. As early as March this year, Neolix reported a steep rise in demand for its autonomous delivery bots, booking orders for more than 200 vehicles in the first three months of 2020 alone. In the United States, autonomous delivery companies like Nuro, Starship and Refraction have also noted greater demand.

Gatik, Loblaw Bring AV Delivery To Canada
After receiving $25 million in Series A funding, AV delivery company Gatik has expanded its operations into Canada after teaming up with Canadian retailers Loblaw – becoming the first autonomous delivery fleet in the country. Gatik said Monday that five autonomous box trucks in Toronto will be used to deliver goods for Loblaw starting in January 2021. The fleet will be used seven days a week on five routes along public roads.

Founded in 2017, Gatik focuses on autonomous, business-to-business middle-mile delivery for the retail sector, filling the gap between autonomous long-haul trucking and last-mile delivery bots. The Loblaw partnership comes after Gatik teamed up with Walmart for a pilot project in 2019.

Hypr Launch Marks Zoox Co-Founder’s AV Return
Former Zoox co-founder and CEO Tim Kentley Klay has returned to the AV industry with Hypr, a new startup that’s designing AI-enabled software he hopes will allow cars to teach themselves to drive through a new branch of machine learning. Kentley Klay told Forbes the software employs reinforcement learning, a branch of machine learning that utilizes a reward-based approach, to train driving algorithms dynamically–ideally with no need for direct human instruction or supervision.

The new venture marks the end of a two-year AV industry hiatus for Kentley Klay, who was fired from Zoox in August 2018 after four years in charge. Hypr has already raised a $10 million seed round and begun testing its approach with a modified Daimler Smart Car. Backers include R7 Ventures and Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest.