Could We See Self-Driving Trucks Before Cars?

Plenty to get to in this week’s roundup, including news about DoorDash, Uber’s growth in the grocery market, and the possibility of self-driving delivery trucks arriving before fully autonomous cars. Senior RSG contributor John Ince covers it all, and more, below.

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The Station: Uber’s 2020 evolution and …  [Techcrunch]

Sum and Substance:  In the nascent autonomous vehicle technology industry, this might be the biggest story of the year. Uber announced that it reached an agreement to sell its self-driving unit Uber Advanced Technologies Group to Aurora Innovation.

The deal requires some unpacking. Here are the highlights:

Aurora didn’t pay cash for Uber ATG, which was last valued at $7.25 billion

Uber is over its equity in ATG and investing $400 million into Aurora…

My Take:  Some additional details on this big story.  Of note:  this was not a deal in cash.  So there’s only stock switching hands, and that makes a big difference – especially with Uber’s stock bouncing around the way it does.

California’s Prop 22 is going to screw over gig workers for years to come, and the terrible anti-labor policy could soon be coming to a state near you [BusinessInsider]

Sum and Substance: The passing of Proposition 22 in California dealt a serious blow to gig workers in the state. The threat of similar policies loom across the nation.

The Biden administration is in a position to fight back by reinvigorating the Federal Trade Commission and being aggressive with the Department of Labor….

My Take:  This article places what transpired in California with the passing of Prop 22 in the larger context of what’s happening with the growth of corporate power. There’s a lot to unpack here. Bottom line:  The Biden administration has a lot on its plate, and what it does to address this issue through appointments and such will have a great effect – looking ahead.

DoorDash Worth Billions as Restaurants Close En Masse  [Eater]

Sum and Substance: It took a pandemic, making consumers and restaurants increasingly dependent on delivery, for third-party platform DoorDash to finally eke out a profit after quarter upon quarter of losses in the hundreds of millions. It’s a company that exploits the vulnerabilities of gig workers, gouges its restaurant partners, preys upon restaurants that aren’t partners, and subverts government regulations. It’s not unique in its competitive set — it’s easy for both customers and restaurants to switch platforms — nor is it guaranteed to maintain profits post-pandemic….

And in a week when more and more restaurants across the country closed due to the onslaught of indignities of this pandemic, DoorDash went public and is now worth $66 billion (though the number seems to be coming down a bit as of Monday morning).

My Take:  Interesting website: everything about food.  DoorDash certainly belongs – especially with its $60+ billion evaluation.

California fines Uber $59 million, threatens license over refusal to hand over sexual assault data [WashingtonPost]

Sum and Substance:  California regulators issued a $59 million fine and threatened to suspend Uber’s license to operate in the state over the ride-hailing giant’s refusal to hand over data on sexual assault on the platform, according to a ruling issued Monday.

The order comes a year after Uber released a landmark report on the prevalence of sexual assault on its app, which disclosed there had been roughly 6,000 cases of reported sexual assault between 2017 and 2018…

Uber has said it objects to releasing that data on grounds it would compromise the anonymity of assault victims, in defiance of established guidelines by support groups for survivors of sexual assault and the will of victims themselves. The CPUC has pledged it would keep the information under seal, and argues the data serves the public interest by ensuring the services are being conducted in a safe manner and broadening public understanding of the ride-hailing business model. …

The commission said Uber could protect victims’ anonymity by providing a code or alternate signifier in place of the victim’s name. …

My Take:  Now, this is interesting. Uber feels that releasing the data would compromise the privacy of the victims, but that can easily be rectified by simply using code names – says the commission.  The $59 million fine doesn’t mean that much to Uber, but revoking their license – now that will get their attention.

Mexican Regulator Gives Go-Ahead For Uber’s Cornershop Acquisition [Pvmnts]

Sum and Substance: Restaurant food delivery has been Uber’s revenue driver for two consecutive quarters as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people shop, learn and work. Uber is aiming for further expansion into the delivery of groceries and pharmaceuticals.

Terms haven’t been disclosed, but when the deal was first being discussed last year, it was expected that Uber would pay $450 million for a 51 percent stake in Cornershop.

My Take:  Of note, this is a company that delivers groceries. Could Uber have plans to expand its delivery of groceries here in the US?  Maybe. It’s taken some time for this deal to clear, since we last covered this news in June, but it looks like it’s on the move.

Uber Imposes New Fees in California to Pay for Added Driver Benefits  [Barrons]

Sum and Substance:  Uber Technologies is imposing new fees on rides and deliveries in California to help pay for new benefits for gig drivers in the state. The new benefits stem from the November approval of Proposition 22, a ballot measure that exempted companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash from a law called Assembly Bill 5 that would have otherwise required them to classify drivers as employees…

In response to a query from Barron’s, Uber said the fee varies by geography and service. For Rides, the fee ranges from 30 cents to $1.50, with fees of 30 cents per ride in San Francisco and 75 cents in Los Angeles. For Uber Eats, the fee varies from 99 cents per delivery (in Los Angeles) to $2 per delivery (in San Francisco.)

My Take:  We tend to forget that Prop 22 also had its benefits for drivers.  The benefits weren’t as generous as AB5, but they are improvements.  Now we find out that Uber will be adding a fee to cover the cost.  Either way, Uber wins.  That’s not necessarily bad for drivers.

Read more about the changes coming to California here.

This Uber For Deliveries Is Helping Retailers Beat Shipping Delays During The Holidays  [Forbes]

Sum and Substance:  UPS-backed Roadie and its fleet of 200,000 independent drivers are helping retailers like Home Depot bring packages to your doorstep.

On the morning of Black Friday, Jiaxu and Feiran He jumped into their Ford F-150 and began loading the pickup with parcels from retailers that they delivered to doorsteps across Connecticut: vacuum cleaners and MacBooks from Best Buy; Christmas decor from Big Lots; power tools from Home Depot. After 13 hours and 30 homes, they’d pocketed $300 for the 120-mile journey.

“The holidays have been crazy busy for us,” says Feiran, 37, who began the delivery work after the pandemic evaporated demand for the pet-sitting operation the couple ran out of their home. “There are lots and lots of gigs on the map . . . I wish we could take them all.”

The map is managed by Roadie, a six-year-old startup that has emerged as a kind of emergency backstop for retailers—large and small—that have been swamped with online orders, especially during the holidays. Customers, too, can go directly online to request delivery through Roadie. It’s a luxury service that may cost anywhere from $10 to several hundred dollars per order, depending on how big the item is and how far it’s going. For now, customers (or the stores they buy from) are willing to pay the premium. …

My Take:  While Roadie may not be as popular as Instacart, DoorDash, Shipt, etc., it’s clearly very busy in some markets – which is great! If you’re interested in learning more about Roadie, check out our Roadie review.

Roadie not in your city yet? Visit our list of best delivery companies to work for!

Walmart will use fully driverless trucks to make deliveries in 2021  [The Verge]

Sum and Substance:  Walmart will use fully autonomous box trucks to make deliveries in Arkansas starting in 2021. The big-box retailer has been working with a startup called Gatik on a delivery pilot for 18 months. Next year, the two companies plan on taking their partnership to the next level by removing the safety driver from their autonomous box trucks.

Editor’s Note:  Fully autonomous trucks when we still haven’t seen fully autonomous vehicles be completely successful? Okay, yes, Waymo has the Phoenix test site, but we would argue box trucks are different than passenger cars.

Do you think this is really just around the corner? Color us skeptical for now.

Readers, what do you think of this week’s roundup?

-John @ RSG