Motional partners with Uber to provide autonomous food deliveries in California

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An Uber Eats delivery bag is seen in this photo. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

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Dec 16 (Reuters) - Motional, the self-driving joint venture of Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) and Aptiv PLC (APTV.N), on Thursday said it was entering the autonomous delivery market by providing meal kits for some California Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N) customers.

Motional said it would start delivering meals from select restaurants on Uber's food delivery app Eats in Santa Monica in early 2022.

The companies did not say whether the partnership would be expanded to other locations. But Motional President and Chief Executive Karl Iagnemma in a statement said the joint-venture was seeing "many long-term opportunities for further deploying Motional's technology across the Uber platform."

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The deliveries will be made in Hyundai's fully electric IONIQ-5 vehicles, converted to operate autonomously. A spokesperson said a safety driver will be present inside the vehicles.

Asked whether Uber Eats customers would have to walk to the vehicles to accept their meal orders, the spokesperson said the companies would share more details on the service ahead of the launch.

Motional's pivot to food delivery follows a move by many companies in the self-driving industry to expand from their original ambition of providing a consumer robotaxi services.

Self-driving companies have repeatedly pushed out timelines to provide truly driverless rides, with only a few limited fully autonomous programs available across the U.S. read more

Automating the delivery of goods in less challenging environments, such as suburbs or along highway stretches, is offering a faster way to generate returns. read more

Motional has been operating a robotaxi pilot program in Las Vegas with U.S. Uber rival Lyft Inc (LYFT.O) over the last three years. Motional and Lyft in November said they will launch a fully driverless ride-hail service in Las Vegas in 2023. read more

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Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

U.S.-based business and finance journalist covering Uber, Lyft, Tesla and larger auto and transportation trends with a focus on electrification, tech, safety and regulation. Data-driven reporter with a track record of uncovering corporate strategies through data analysis. Previous work includes breaking news on the U.S. legal team and covering politics and companies from the German bureau.