While Uber spent the winter making drastic cuts to its self-driving vehicle operations — firing 100 drivers in Pittsburgh, then winding down its autonomous trucking division — upstarts have been happy to pick up the slack. Case in point: Udelv, which announced today a fleet of 10 self-driving delivery vans deploying in Oklahoma City.
The San Fransisco-based startup, which specialises in low-speed electric cargo vans, made its first autonomous test drive in January of this year. This Oklahoma City roll-out will see this small fleet of boxy vehicles performing supermarket deliveries for Uptown Grocery, Buy For Less, and Smart Saver.
According to press materials, each Udelv (if that’s the appropriate singular usage) will have human drivers inside as failsafes and be linked to an operations centre that will allow for “remote control and monitoring.” Though considerably younger than its competitors, the company boasts an “accident-free” record — something Uber and Tesla, unfortunately, cannot.
That said, it’s clear from promotional photos that the Udelv vehicles rely on sensors from Velodyne. That same company’s sensors were outfitted onto the autonomous Uber vehicle that struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona, earlier this year. The human operator behind the wheel of the Uber vehicle was apparently watching TV shows at the time of the fatal accident, according to police records obtained by Gizmodo.
“The incident in Tempe was a tragic accident that should not have occurred. It was a tragedy and our deepest sympathies go out to the victim and her family,” CEO Daniel Laury told Gizmodo. “Udelv’s ADVs are separate to the class of vehicle involved in the accident. Ours are purpose built to carry deliveries, not people. This means they don’t need to go as fast as public transport vehicles, can handle situations differently and will always prioritise human safety.”
Udelv’s vehicles are set to debut on the streets of Oklahoma City in early 2019.