Uber Technologies is spinning off robotic delivery company Serve Robotics.
Postmates started Serve in 2018 as an experiment in autonomous robot delivery. Uber took control of Serve when it acquired Postmates last year and has decided that Serve should function as an independent company. The move follows a round of seed funding led by venture capital firm Neo with participation by Uber and other investors.
Serve Robotics will develop a new form of mobility by creating autonomous robots to deliver goods in urban environments. Its fleet has already proven its viability by serving thousands of households in Los Angeles and has provided customers with contactless delivery during the pandemic. As an independent startup, the company will expand its market reach through new partnerships as it continues to design, develop and operate delivery robots specialized in navigating sidewalks, according to the company.
“While self-driving cars remove the driver, robotic delivery eliminates the car itself and makes deliveries sustainable and accessible to all,” said Ali Kashani, co-founder and CEO of Serve Robotics. “Over the next two decades, new mobility robots will enter every aspect of our lives—first moving food, then everything else.”
Nearly half of all restaurant deliveries in the United States are within a 40-minute walk, offering a tremendous opportunity for robotic delivery to complete them faster, safer and at a lower cost to consumers and restaurants. Food delivery is a growing industry, fueled by the global pandemic, with United States food delivery app revenue expected to grow from $26.5 billion in 2020 to $42 billion in five years.
“We’re excited for the potential of Serve robots to help our restaurant partners grow their business and find new convenient, safe, and reliable ways to reach customers,” said Stephane Ficaja, general manager of US and Canada at Uber Eats.
Serve is not the only company trying to capture the autonomous delivery market. Starship Robotics is working with grocery stores and has robots doing delivery on several college campuses. Amazon has developed an autonomous delivery robot and has started a pilot project.