Picture: Pony-ai via Facebook.
Picture: Pony-ai via Facebook.

Autonomous cars to deliver goods to residents of California town

By Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh Time of article published Apr 17, 2020

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Irvine, California - Toyota-backed self driving company Pony.ai announced on Friday that it would provide an autonomous delivery service to residents of Irvine, California, as demand for online orders surges because of the coronavirus lockdown.

As some 90 percent of US shoppers are under stay-at-home orders, a jump in demand for package and grocery delivery has left e-commerce platforms struggling to cope.

In response, Amazon has said it plans to hire 75 000 more people for jobs ranging from warehouse staff to delivery drivers.

Pony.ai said in a statement that it would use autonomous electric vehicles to deliver packages from local e-commerce platform Yamibuy to customers in Irvine, California, which has a population of more than 200 000.

The autonomous fleet comprises 10 electric Kona SUVs, made by Hyundai and its deliveries will mark Pony.ai's first attempt to deliver goods, rather than transport passengers.

As part of efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, self-driving technology companies, including Waymo, General Motors' Cruise and Uber, have suspended autonomous car testing that involves back-up drivers.

Pony.ai said in March it would pause its public robotaxi service in Fremont, also California, and Irvine for three weeks.

The company is testing cars in the Chinese cities of Beijing and Guangzhou and California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) eased regulation on autonomous delivery service last year.

The DMV said at the time it would allow the testing and commercial use of light-duty autonomous delivery vehicles on California's public roads with certain permission.


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