• Pony.ai is repurposing 10 of its Hyundai Kona Electric small crossovers for autonomous package delivery in Irvine, California.
  • The vehicles will be able to deliver 500 to 700 packages a day for Asian-products online retailer Yamibuy.
  • Pony.ai, a Chinese startup, got a $400 million investment from Toyota earlier this year to research autonomous driving.

    As delivery services are being stretched thin, delivery robot and robotaxi companies are looking to pick up the slack. First NAVYA repurposed its self-driving shuttles to deliver COVID-19 tests to the Mayo Clinic in Florida, and now Pony.ai is transforming 10 of its Hyundai Kona Electrics as delivery vehicles.

    Chinese robotaxi startup Pony.ai began offering a self-driving ride-hailing service in Irvine, California, in November 2019. A safety driver was always behind the wheel, but the service had its own app and, now, Toyota backing to help it research autonomous driving. Now the company is using 10 of those vehicles to deliver products to Irvine residents form online retailer Yamibuy.

    Pony.ai says the deliveries will be a contactless experience. Customers can either come out to the vehicle when it arrives, or the safety driver can leave the package at their door. According to the company, the repurposed vehicles will be able to deliver 500 to 700 packages a day originating from Yamibuy, an Asian-products online retailer that offers food, household items, and cosmetics.

    While it’s not a truly autonomous experience because of the safety driver, most of the tiny delivery robots have teleoperation personnel tracking the device who are able to take control of the vehicle remotely if something gets too complicated for the system. Either way, the rise in delivery robots will also mean an increase on data that could be used to make these services more common post-pandemic.

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