The next phase of growth for on-demand delivery services will soon include driverless, autonomous vehicles that may be teleoperated by remote-based drivers who ensure that food and other items reach their destination. Postmates, the on-demand delivery firm based in San Francisco, is partnering with Phantom Auto, an autonomous vehicle teleoperator based in nearby Mountain View, to coordinate driverless deliveries.
Postmates Serve, which utilizes autonomous rovers for deliveries, will feature technology allowing remote-based pilots to monitor and control the vehicles if they run into issues while making a delivery. Postmates is testing autonomous deliveries in parts of Los Angeles and will soon expand the service to San Francisco.
"Phantom's integrated solution enables us to operate in more neighborhoods and reach more customers as we roll Serve out to our key markets," said Ali Kashani, Postmates' vice president of special projects, said in a release announcing the partnership.
Postmates and other delivery and logistics firms are increasingly focusing on autonomous vehicles to expand their services while also making trips quicker and more efficiently. While the potential benefits of autonomous delivery are enormous, regulators want to make sure there is a way to take control of the autonomous vehicle in case there is a problem as it navigates streets and sidewalks.
In August, Door Dash acquired the teleoperation firm Scotty Labs as it looks to expand autonomous services.
For Phantom Auto, the partnership with Postmates is the firm's latest move as it develops technology for the teleoperation of self-driving vehicles. In this case, remote drivers based at Postmates facilities will be able to monitor small autonomous delivery vehicles and have the ability, if needed, to step in remotely and control vehicle.
"This is a watershed moment for the mobility space, proving that autonomy combined with teleoperation can get autonomous vehicles commercially deployed today," Shai Magzimof, founder of Phantom Auto, said in a release announcing the deal.
Postmates is expected to release its prospectus soon for a possible IPO. Last week, the delivery firm announced it raised $225 million, lifting its valuation to $2.4 billion.