Weekly Round-Up: Autonomous Food Delivery Expansion + More

We begin our weekly round-up with RSG contributor Paula Lemar with the expansion of autonomous food delivery services that Uber Eats offers.

It’s now in Fairfax, Virginia along with a handful of other markets. On the other hand, is the autonomous vehicle investment crashing?

Keep reading for more insights!

Uber Eats Starts Offering Autonomous Food Deliveries in Fairfax, Virginia


Starting April 20, 2023, Uber Eats customers in Fairfax, Virginia can get their next meal delivered by a robot.

In an expansion of the company’s existing partnership with Cartken, Uber has begun offering automated deliveries in the city’s Mosaic District.

With today’s announcement, a select number of the more than 40 restaurants in the area have begun transporting their food aboard Cartken’s six-wheeled robots. Among the restaurants participating in the pilot include Our Mom Eugenia, Pupatella, and RASA.

Uber has been testing autonomous delivery robots in a handful of markets throughout the US. Last May, the company launched two pilots in Los Angeles with the help of Motional and Serve Robotics.

More recently, Uber signed a 10-year deal with Nuro to use the company’s vans for autonomous deliveries in California and Texas. Cartken, it should be noted, also works with Grubhub to deliver food on college campuses. The firm’s robot uses NVIDIA’s Jetson tech, alongside cameras and sensors, to navigate streets and sidewalks. They can travel at up to six miles per hour and carry about two full paper grocery bags of cargo to their destination….

My Take

Uber seems to keep expanding their autonomous delivery options. It’s been active in a few markets and continues to expand.

Though, from what the article states, it sounds like autonomous delivery is potentially slower than personal delivery. Going only 6 miles per hour at its peak seems like it’s much slower than a human delivery person would be able to go.

When it comes to food, time means everything. Customers want hot food. While the novelty of autonomous delivery will keep people going for a while when it really comes down to it, they’ll eventually realize they could get their food faster and that’s what they’ll gravitate towards.

The Self-Driving Car Investment Crash, In One Handy Chart


The autonomous vehicle boom is fizzling. According to a recent report from F-Prime Capital, AV investments have “significantly slowed” in 2022, declining nearly 60 percent as compared to the previous year.

That reflects an overall decline in robotics investment — $12 billion in 2022, down from $18 billion in 2021 — but it also speaks to the current reality facing many AV operators right now.

They’re laying people off, struggling with regulators and a skeptical public, or shutting down altogether. In short, it’s tough out there for a robot car.

That’s a big drop.

My Take

This shines an opposite view on autonomous vehicles compared to the previous article. This one seems to indicate that autonomous vehicles aren’t worth the hype. Investors put a LOT of money into the development of this area of delivery and ridesharing to see almost nothing in return.

There are a lot of variables when it comes to the delivery and rideshare services that I don’t think these companies really took into consideration. Let’s face it…people are messy. Especially if they think they won’t get any repercussions or be noticed.

Who would clean up after these passengers? How would the driverless vehicle know which previous passenger made a mess? Or would the vehicle have to go back to its “home base” for cleaning and maintenance between each pickup?

That doesn’t seem worthwhile.

Gig Apps Trap Reverse Centaurs In Wage-Stealing Skinner Boxes


Enshittification is the process by which digital platforms devour themselves: first, they dangle goodies in front of end users. Once users are locked in, the goodies are taken away and dangled before business customers who supply goods to the users.

Once those business customers are stuck on the platform, the goodies are clawed away and showered on the platform’s shareholders…

My Take

That sounds like a suitable name to me! If you continue reading the full article, you’ll see that RSG’s Sergio Avedian was interviewed for this article.

Sergio ran an experiment with two brothers who drove for Uber, one frequently, one intermittently, and both with different vehicles.

Check Out His Experiment Results Here

Uber, DoorDash Drivers Spell Out the New Rules of Tipping


With inflation making everything from groceries to car repairs more expensive, rideshare and food delivery drivers are putting the message out there—you’ve gotta tip.

“Tips make the difference between whether a job is worth it or not,” said DoorDash driver Ben Magana. “Without a tip, sometimes I break even with just the gas it costs.”

Magana said demand is down for orders overall since the pandemic and as such, people need to be tipping more. “I’ll go weeks at a time when it’s quiet day after quiet day,” he said.

“As orders get bigger, I’d say 15-20%. There are orders you have to carry with two hands, and there are drinks to worry about,” Magana said. “As a personal rule, the bare minimum is at least $3. For those making the bigger orders and not tipping it’s like, you have enough money to treat yourself to a nice dinner, but maybe you don’t care about the drivers.”…

My Take

Tipping is always a hot topic for delivery and rideshare alike. But how do we change the narrative around tipping?

MANY customers have the belief that tipping should always be optional and is based on performance and shouldn’t be expected to supplement the income of the workers.

Which in some ways, I do agree with. I don’t think a person’s livelihood should rely on tips.

But also, it makes sense to tip your delivery driver. They are doing you a service, much like pizza delivery in the before-times, or any kind of service position where tipping is standard.

Unfortunately, everyone has an idea of what a tip should look like and what needs to be done by the worker in order to EARN the tip.

What do you think of tipping? Do you think it should be performance-based? Standard?

DoorDash and Instacart Driver Make Goodie Bags for Customers. But Not Everyone Loves It


As the gig economy continues to boom, DoorDash and Instacart drivers are finding unique ways to stand out from the competition. One driver, in particular, has sparked a heated debate with her latest idea: Making goodie bags for customers with hopes that she’ll get extra tips.

Jasmine (@800jazzy), a driver for both DoorDash and Instacart, recently posted a TikTok showcasing her new project, and it has quickly gone viral. The video has amassed over 89,000 views since its upload on April 10, and it has garnered a range of reactions from both customers and fellow drivers.

The concept is simple: Jasmine wants to make her Instacart deliveries more personal by creating goodie bags for her customers. She purchased little bags with a transparent front from Amazon and filled them with three candies and a sticker with her name on it. The stickers read, “Don’t forget to rate your shopper in the app. Tips keep me driving.”

In the video, Jasmine is debating whether to put the sticker on front of the goodie bag, or the back, which would leave the transparent part of the bag visible to the customers and allow them to see what’s inside….

My Take

This is just a classic example of not everyone having the same tastes and views on things. As a DoorDash delivery driver, you may think you’re doing something cute or helpful or fun for your customers while the customer is just getting frustrated at finding extra “junk” in their order than expected.

Now they have to do more…either use or dispose of whatever was included in their order that they didn’t ask for.

However, some customers will appreciate it. They’ll notice the extra gesture and appreciate the effort and creativity.

You have to be careful of what you’re doing to ensure that you’re hitting the sweet spot between the two extremes. You don’t want to decrease your chances of getting tips or risk the wrath of your customer if you take things further than the customer expected or wanted. Tread lightly.

  • Have you ever received anything extra in your delivery orders?
  • Did you, as a customer, appreciate it?

Share your experience in the comments.