It may sound like a character in a Transformers movie but it's actually an autonomous delivery service helping people in need.
Optimus Rides, a startup that specializes in developing driverless vehicles for urban transportation, has announced that they will be deploying three of their cars for contactless grocery deliveries to low-income households in Washington DC.
The initiative is expected to deliver 5,000 meals every week. The meals are being supplied in the form of “One-Week Boxes” containing enough nutritious ready-made meals and ingredients to feed an adult three times a day for seven days at a time.
Although the autonomous cars will require disinfection in between each use, the project is expected to decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, Optimus Rides had been developing their autonomous vehicle operations in The Yards neighborhood of DC with the aim of one day offering transportation services to the residents -but until the outbreaks subside, the startup will be using their driverless cars to deliver essential items to communities with high risk of infection.
“Our strategy has proven to be highly tractable, as Optimus Ride is one of the first commercially operational self-driving technology companies in the world, with deployments in Maryland, California, Virginia, and New York,” reads an Optimus Ride blog post. “While our initial focus has been on moving passengers, we also developed an initial pilot for self-driving delivery of pharmaceuticals. Our goal at the time was to identify efficiency opportunities during off-peak hours, but in doing so we found a strong and positive response, particularly from our senior community members."
“After pausing operations at … [a California nursing home], we received an urgent request from their management to assist with evening meal delivery as residents were no longer allowed to congregate in the dining hall. Our team sprang into action, and after some rapid planning, preparation and taking all possible precautions, we adapted our services for meal delivery. On that evening we delivered 46 meals, and since then have continued delivering 50-80 meals per day."
“It is responses like these that have made our team feel our work is more meaningful than ever, and we will continue with our meal deliveries for [the nursing home] while the situation is still ongoing.”