Mobileye, the Israeli subsidiary of American multinational corporation Intel, has partnered up with Udelv, a four-year-old US company, to bring automated electric delivery vehicles into service in the US by 2023.
Udelv’s latest Transporter, a boxy electric shuttle with no seats or cockpit that is designed specifically for delivery, will be equipped with a fully automated driving system provided by Mobileye.
The vehicles will not be sold by Udelv; instead, they will be available to commercial customers as part of a subscription-based delivery-as-a-service package. Although the vehicles will not have human drivers, startup plans to have a teleoperation feature with humans remotely assisting customers with vehicle loading and unloading from a distance.
Udelv is among at least a half-dozen self-driving technology firms focused on product distribution rather than robotaxis. The change was sparked by the pandemic-driven surge in eCommerce and touchless distribution, as well as the perception that automated goods movement faces fewer regulatory and legal barriers than people transport.
US-based General Motors (GM) Co, which unveiled its BrightDrop electric commercial delivery vehicles and service earlier this year, is one of the potential competitors. Although Brightdrop does not yet involve automated driving, GM’s majority-owned Cruise subsidiary continues to test self-driving shuttles for both product delivery and human transportation.
Alphabet Inc’s Waymo is also testing automated deliveries in a range of commercial vehicles from several partners, and Amazon’s Zoox subsidiary has developed a self-driving shuttle that can carry both people and cargo. Neither company has set a specific timetable for commercial rollout.
Startups focused on automated delivery vehicles and services include Nuro, Gatik, and Boxbot, all located in Northern California.
Udelv said that it planned to build and deploy at least 35,000 of its new Transporters between 2023 and 2028, but would not say where those vehicles will be built or who will build them.
Udelv will continue to use converted Ford Transit Connect vans fitted with Udelv’s self-developed automation system, which Udelv’s CEO and Co-founder Mr. Daniel Laury said are based on Baidu’s Apollo self-driving program until the new vehicle is ready for prototype testing in 2022 and commercial launch in 2023.
Mobileye said that the company’s latest Drive automated system is based on the new EyeQ5 system-on-a-chip and will be ready for testing in early 2022.