Udelv Expands Driverless Grocery Deliveries in the U.S.

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【Summary】The startup is expected to roll out its services in Oklahoma City next year. In San Francisco Bay Area, Udelv has completed more than 1,000 deliveries over a nine-month period.

Michael Cheng    Nov 30, 2018 9:17 AM PT
Udelv Expands Driverless Grocery Deliveries in the U.S.

Autonomous delivery services are one of many ways driverless vehicles can boost convenience and quality of life. This type of service is designed to make groceries and everyday goods more accessible for people with busy lifestyles and individuals residing in far-flung areas.

Udelv, a California-based startup that specializes in autonomous, third-party delivery services, has made significant advancements in the rapidly growing sector. The business, with its fleet of L4 self-driving vans (modified GEM eL XD electric trucks), has already accrued hundreds of miles on public roads, via trials in major cities.

Expanding in Oklahoma City

The startup is expected to roll out its services in Oklahoma City next year. Initially, Udelv will deploy a total of 10 autonomous vans in the city, leveraging its partnership with Narnia Road and Esperanza Real Estate Investments. So far, it has signed on local grocery chain Buy for Less, including its partner stores (Smart Saver, Supermercado and Uptown Grocery), to use the service.

According to the business, the deal is the largest agreement involving autonomous delivery vehicles to date.

"Customers simply open the locker with a press of a button on their mobile device and the vehicle heads on its way to the next delivery or back to the store," said Daniel Laury, CEO of Udelv.

"This is a historic revolution in transportation. We are reinventing deliveries. McKinsey estimates that 80 percent of all package deliveries will be autonomous in the next decade."

For now, the autonomous vans will be closely monitored by human backup drivers. The representatives have been instructed to limit interactions with customers in order to maintain the self-driving aspects of the service, as in the future, the vans will be fully autonomous. Udelv will also setup a command center in the area to monitor its fleet of driverless delivery vans.

Positive Track Record and Feedback

In San Francisco Bay Area, the startup has completed more than 1,000 deliveries over a nine-month period. Impressively, Udelv maintained a spotless track record during the trial, without a single reported incident. All deliveries were fulfilled as scheduled and the driverless vans traveled safely to every destination. Moreover, no orders were stolen from the fleet's locked storage bins.

Udelv is in the process of signing on other local businesses in the city requiring third-party delivery services, such as flower shops, pharmacies and bakeries.

"Our customers are very tech-savvy," said Richard Draeger, owner, Draeger's Market. "We look forward to adding the Udelv autonomous vehicle and its cost reduction factor to our delivery fleet."

Feedback and insights from customers have been a vital part of growth for the startup. According to the company, individuals ordering home-delivered groceries prefer to intercept their food-related items quickly.

When it comes to smartphone app usage, the business learned that there is still a large number of people who prefer text or SMS-based communication over mobile applications. Lastly, older customers want to be able to speak to a human representative about their orders, while younger individuals are more likely to be repeat customers.

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