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AutoX Launching Autonomous Grocery Delivery Service in California

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【Summary】A San Jose startup is ready to launch its first driverless cars on public streets. The cars will be carrying produce instead of people. AutoX, a developer of autonomous driving technology, is launching a grocery delivery pilot in San Jose, California.

Eric Walz    Aug 27, 2018 10:00 AM PT
AutoX Launching Autonomous Grocery Delivery Service in California
author: Eric Walz   

SAN JOSE, Calif., — A San Jose startup is ready to launch its first driverless cars on public streets. The autonomous cars will be carrying fresh produce instead of people. AutoX, a developer of autonomous driving technology, is launching a grocery delivery pilot in San Jose, California.

Users to will be able to order and receive fresh produce and other goods and have their order delivered by one of AutoX's bright green self-driving cars. The new pilot will be available to customers in geo-fenced areas throughout the city.  AutoX's partner on fresh produce is e-commerce company GrubMarket.com, which is one of the key partners fulfilling the grocery orders.

"We're very excited to launch the world's first autonomous grocery delivery service with self-driving vehicles on the road," said AutoX Founder and CEO Jianxiong Xiao, who has an PhD from MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab and is a pioneer in the research field of 3D computer vision and robotics. "It's the first step of our mission to democratize autonomy, also a testament to our cutting edge A.I. and all its potential capabilities. We believe self-driving car technologies will fundamentally change people's daily lives for the better."

GrubMarket sources organic and healthy food directly from producers and offers at the lowest cost to popular retail stores such as Whole Foods, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Chipotle. With AutoX's affordable self-driving car delivery service, the same high quality groceries could be offered directly to individual consumers at the same price, but with better delivery and shopping experience.

After downloading the AutoX app, users can browse and order a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The order is delivered in a temperature controlled environment inside the vehicle throughout the entire driverless trip, so perishables remain fresh.  

"AutoX is a true innovator in the autonomous driving industry, as evidenced by their pioneering self-driving delivery vehicle." says GrubMarket CEO Mike Xu. "We are thrilled to combine the fresh and affordable grocery experience of GrubMarket, with the ingenuity and delivery capabilities of AutoX. We look forward to providing our customers with even more convenient delivery options."

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Another option for customers is choosing what they want from an already prestocked vehicle. When the AutoX car arrives, the window rolls down with AutoX's selections for customers to pick from, just like on a grocery store shelf. It's sort of like a convenience store on wheels or an ice cream truck, allowing customer to pick what they want on the spot.

"We are enabling two shopping experiences with self-driving cars," explains AutoX COO Jewel Li. "You can order goods from an app and get them delivered by a self-driving vehicle. Or, our self-driving car brings a shelf of goods to you, and you could select and purchase onsite in front of your house."

AutoX takes a different approach to autonomous driving, Instead of relying on expensive lidar, which bounces laser beams off objects to render a 3D view of the environment, AutoX uses high-resolution cameras as the primary sensor for its self-driving vehicles combined with artificial intelligence (AI).

AutoX's high resolution camera sensing enables the AI to safely detect small objects such as children or pets, and can see further ahead for longer distance, compared to other autonomous driving technologies that heavily rely on lidar.

We asked Xiao why AutoX chose this type of set up. He explained that while cameras form the backbone of the company's perception system, each vehicle will have one low-resolution LIDAR to provide redundancy and improve robustness.

Xiao explained that using a single LiDAR allows AutoX to leverage its advantages, but also keep costs down relative to competitors who rely heavily on them. Other companies developing self-driving technology rely on multiple lidars per vehicle, which increases costs significantly. All of AutoX's autonomous driving technology is developed in-house.

AutoX hardware partners include chipmaker NVIDIA and lidar companies Velodyne and Robosense.

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An AutoX self-driving Lincoln MKZ

Xiao told us that AutoX recruited exclusively the best and brightest from the top universities and companies to create a formidable team of engineers and scientists. AutoX follows an integrated hardware and software approach to reach the most reliable system performance.  

"Highest safety and lowest cost, this is where our key technology lies", said Xiao.

AutoX is determined to make a mark on the nascent autonomous driving industry. The diverse team of employees at AutoX includes researchers from MIT, Stanford, CMU, Berkeley, along with engineering talent from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Ford Motor Company.

AutoX's grocery delivery pilot will roll out in two phases. The first pilot area is in North San Jose, close to the company's headquarters. From there, AutoX plans to expand the service area every few weeks to cover a larger area, eventually including the nearby Silicon Valley towns of Mountain View and Palo Alto.

Xiao said that initially a fleet of modified Lincoln MKZ vehicles will be used for the first stage of the pilot. For the next stage, AutoX plans to upgrade to a minivan that has a much larger cargo space to hold more products.

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