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Contactless delivery using self-driving cars coming to Irvine, CA amid coronavirus

Pony.ai, a Toyota-backed self-driving car startup, will use its autonomous cars to deliver groceries.

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Pony.ai self-driving delivery pilot

Beep beep, autonomous groceries coming through.

Pony.ai
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A Toyota-backed self-driving car startup will soon jump into the autonomous and contactless delivery game. Pony.ai, a Chinese startup company, said on Thursday it plans to start delivery services with its autonomous vehicles starting this week.

The program will take place in Irvine, California, via a partnership with Yamibuy, an e-commerce business based in Los Angeles. It'll focus on essential goods and groceries. Grocery stores and companies like Amazon have pivoted to focus on the delivery of essential items and food since the coronavirus pandemic, and Pony.ai said its services will provide much-needed additional capacity to fulfill orders.

The self-driving cars are based on the Hyundai Kona with prototype autonomous technology. The cars will deploy from Yamibuy with orders onboard and deliver them straight to a customer without the need for human interaction. It's a win-win for both companies and Yamibuy benefits from added efficiency and Pony.ai marks a milestone for its operations with the start of a delivery service.

Rival Nuro also began trialing self-driving deliveries in California recently with its own autonomous delivery pod.

For now, the delivery pilot will run through the summer, which should give Irvine locals numerous opportunities to have a robotaxi bring them their groceries along the way.

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First published April 17.