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Gone are the days of businesses with a single focus. Today’s companies are offering a breadth of services and expanding their offerings. Seeking new customers, more revenue, and stickiness, companies large and small are diversifying their portfolios, and General Motors is no exception.
Soon, General Motors and DoorDash hope to make food delivery drivers a thing of the past with a new partnership. General Motors’ subsidiary Cruise Automation, which makes technology for self-driving cars, has teamed up with DoorDash to test out driverless deliveries. The tests will feature a “safety driver” who will remain in the Chevrolet Bolt EV, only taking over in the event of an emergency.
Cruise Automation launched an application in 2017 for its employees in San Francisco to hail rides from its test fleet of self-driving cars. This fleet features the safety drivers as well. GM has stated that it plans to create a driverless taxi service form these cars, with food delivery serving as another profit avenue.
“Delivery is a significant opportunity for Cruise as we prepare to commercialize our autonomous vehicle technology and transform transportation,” says Cruise CEO Dan Ammann. “Partnering with DoorDash will provide us with critical learnings as we further our mission to deliver technology that makes people’s lives better and more convenient.”
Selected DoorDash customers in San Francisco will be able to order meals from local restaurants and have them delivered by Cruise automated cars. DoorDash and Cruise will use the program to evaluate operational and safety aspects of automated delivery programs, the companies said in an announcement. GM has also stated that it plans to begin offering rides in automated cars to paying customers as soon as this year.
Ford has been testing driverless deliveries as well in partnership with online food delivery company Postmates and Domino’s Pizza in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Miami, Florida. However, Ford is currently testing its cars with human drivers designed to look like driverless vehicles. The drivers are also instructed not to interact with customers. The purpose of the tests is to see how customers would respond to deliveries where there is no human element.
Scott Robinson, Vice President of Design & Strategy at Bond Brand Loyalty, says of the GM-DoorDash partnership, “Organizations that embrace the new currencies of loyalty such as convenience, time savings and peace of mind will win the hearts, minds, and wallets of today’s consumer. Our study ‘The Loyalty Report’ confirms that consumers are willing to pay extra for services that authentically meet their needs.”
His praise, however, is not unequivocal. “It appears DoorDash’s collaboration with GM’s self-driving car subsidiary Cruise, while seeking to eliminate driver costs from food service delivery, will have to solve a potential new inconvenience of getting the delivery from the driverless vehicle to the customer’s front door, a tall order late at night, or on a cold rainy day,” says Robinson. “Autonomous delivery does remedy some of the costs in the last mile of delivery, but not yet for the last ten yards.” The point here is that no one knows the future of food delivery. One thing does seem true, however. Demand from consumers for food delivery will remain even as the delivery driver and the delivery vehicle change.
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