An under-the-radar self-driving car startup is launching California's first autonomous grocery delivery

AutoXAutoX will use a modified Lincoln MKZ vehicle in its grocery delivery pilot.
  • AutoX, a self-driving car startup testing in California, has launched the state’s first grocery delivery pilot program using autonomous cars in San Jose.
  • The program works both as a traditional delivery system and a store on wheels that drives to customers.
  • The grocery items are sourced from GrubMarket, which works directly with producers, eliminating the need for stores.

AutoX wants to bring the grocery store to you.

The self-driving car startup, which got permission to test self-driving cars in California in 2017, has unveiled its ambition plans for its technology.

Instead of the crowded taxi-like use case, AutoX is instead focusing on less precious cargo: groceries. Starting in August, customers within a certain area of San Jose, California will be able to download the AutoX app to get groceries delivered by an autonomous self-driving car – a Lincoln MKZ fitted with high-definition cameras and a temperature-controlled environment.

“We’re very excited to launch the first autonomous grocery delivery and mobile store service in the heart of Silicon Valley with self-driving vehicles on the road,” AutoX founder and CEO Jianxiong Xiao said in a prepared statement announcing the new service. “It’s the first step of our mission to democratize autonomy and is a testament to our cutting edge AI and all its potential capabilities. We believe self-driving car technologies will fundamentally change people’s daily lives for the better.”

AutoXAutoXCustomers have the option of having a mobile shelf of items sent to them to purchase on the spot.

Xiao, known as “Professor X,” holds a Ph.D from MIT in artificial intelligence and computer science and was the founding director of the Princeton Computer Vision and Robotics Labs, where he served as an assistant professor, from 2013 to 2016.

He started AutoX in 2016 and got permission to test self-driving cars in California in 2017. The grocery delivery pilot is the first indication of what he plans to do with the technology, which he describes as the “democratization of autonomy.” Xiao describes it this way because AutoX’s self-driving apparatus uses a less expensive high-resolution camera array rather than the traditional LiDAR sensor that most other self-driving car companies use.

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

The service is launching with two options for shopping. Customers can either select what items they want to be delivered and have it sent, or request the car to come to them to make purchase decisions on the spot. At launch, there will be no delivery fee, but ultimately the company aims to have a fee as low as two or three dollars.

AutoXAutoXThe pilot is launching this month.

The groceries are sourced from GrubMarket, which works directly with producers, cutting out the need to work with any kind of grocery store. AutoX will work with other partners to round out its offerings.

AutoX’s self-driving permit requires a human in the car for safety, but the car will be driving itself.

The service will start in San Jose, but expand west to Mountain View, Palo Alto and other cities in the near future.

The self-driving grocery delivery battle is already heating up.Earlier this month, Kroger began its announced pilot with Nuro to launch delivery pilot using self-driving cars in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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