After acquiring the delivery startup Postmates for $US2.65 ($3) billion last year, Uber Technologies announced on Tuesday that plans to spin the company’s robotics division out into a separate company: Serve Robotics.
The new company’s name is a nod to the black and yellow Serve delivery robot developed by Postmates X, the startup’s original robotics division. The robot, designed to patrol neighbourhood footpaths bearing gifts of burritos and fries, will likely remain a key element of the newly-formed company.
“While self-driving cars remove the driver, robotic delivery eliminates the car itself and makes deliveries sustainable and accessible to all,” Ali Kashani, co-founder and CEO of Serve Robotics, told TechCrunch.
In 2017, Postmates acquired Kashani’s startup, Lox Inc, and began developing its footpath delivery bots in earnest. The thinking is pretty straightforward: The world — and gig work in particular — is becoming increasingly automated, and cutting cars out of the delivery equation will undoubtedly be a way to reduce overhead costs in the long run.
“While self-driving cars remove the driver, robotic delivery eliminates the car itself and makes deliveries sustainable and accessible to all,” Kashani said. “Over the next two decades, new mobility robots will enter every aspect of our lives — first moving food, then everything else.”
Then everything else!
The decisions to acquire and consolidate Postmates comes as part of a renewed push towards profitability: Particularly in light of the financial pressure its been facing since the Covid-19 pandemic began, Uber has been increasingly interested in streamlining the focus of its business to include mostly ride-hailing and delivery ventures. In 2020 alone, Uber opted to offload a number of its holdings across the transportation sector, including the shared scooter and bike unit, Jump; a stake of its logistics spinoff Uber Freight; its autonomous vehicle unit, Uber ATG; and its air taxi venture, Uber Elevate.