San Diego Happy Hour, PDDs & Cities + Travis K
San Diego Happy Hour, PDDs & Cities + Travis K
Before we get to some big news about PDDs (or as normal people call them, "delivery bots") - we want to remind everyone to join us on Friday in San Diego for our Mini Mobility Happy Hour. In true SD fashion, this meetup will be on the chiller side of the spectrum, so please drop on by Stone Brewing at Liberty Station from 5:30 to 7:30 to chat about all things mobility, delivery, and more. RSVP now.
If you missed it on Monday, the Knight Foundation and Kiwibot put out a must-read paper on autonomous delivery bots in urban settings, honing in on pilots from Detroit, Miami-Dade, Pittsburgh, and San Jose.
Overall, this reads as a huge validator for the nascent industry, as the bots conducted over 3,000 trips with nary a human incident. One of the biggest takeaways is that anywhere robots DO struggle is apt to also be a location that's challenging to pedestrians, especially those with mobility impairments. If regulators are thoughtful, this could lead to a win-win dynamic, where permitting fees for PDDs go to fund fixes to broken sidewalks, curb cuts at intersections, and other overdue infrastructure improvements.
In many ways, delivery robots are still like little kids (and not just because their designers learned from how humans treated scooters and went all in on anthropomorphic design.) If you can think of a street or urban setting where you'd be comfortable letting a youngster walk around, a PDD can probably do so as well - think a school campus or well designed business district. But when it comes to a sprawling suburb with wide intersections and dangerous streets - the bots aren't ready for business (yet.) Do read the full report.
HOT INDUSTRY NEWS & GOSSIP
Bigger than PDDs, bigger news? Kiwibot wasn't the only autonomous delivery player making waves this week, as Nuro had some huge news of its own. The Mountain View-based startup announced a 10-year partnership with Uber Eats, starting with trials on its home turf and in Houston. Given that Nuro's robots are closer to the size of a small car (they drive in the street, not the sidewalk), this sounds like it may involve bundling multiple orders, as opposed to dispatching one at a time - a unique play that might help with unit economics, but hopefully doesn't result in too many soggy fries. There are a few other interesting things about this move, including that it is not exclusive, so it sounds like Uber's spin-out Serve is still handling deliveries in other markets. For more details on the deal, head over to Ottomate News, where Chris Albrecht and Jonah Bliss trade thoughts.
Oh, Travis! Uber founder Travis Kalanick seems to always find himself in the news, and this week he's got a two-fer. First, it sounds like there's return-to-office drama at Otter, his burgeoning delivery software company, which works with both sister company CloudKitchens and other ghost kitchen players. Then, FT goes behind the scenes at Pik N' Pak, Travis' emerging LatAm dark store network. Previously little-reported, this startup seems to be using spare space at CloudKitchen locations to do local warehousing for the likes of Rappi and (Uber-owned) Cornershop. Quite the Russian nesting doll of interlocking delivery companies he's building!
Amazon invades Gopuff... Evidently instant delivery giant Gopuff is having some internal culture turmoil, as an army of ex-Amazonians has taken the reins at the startup's logistics and warehousing operations. It's one thing to standardize operations across nearly-identical mega warehouses, it's quite another when your real estate consists of a hodge podge of old retail shells, class C industrial space, and random strip malls - as is the case for Gopuff.
Fundraising news: On-demand electric shuttle service Circuit closes an $11 million series A, led by Tribeca Venture Partners. Expect to see this capital put to adding new markets, beyond its current operations in NY, FL, CA, NJ, CO, MA, and TX. Meanwhile, Upshift hits the crowdfunding markets, following a similar successful raise last year, as it works to build a fractional car subscription business. And Hyrecar closes $100 million in a revolving line of credit, as it pushes further into servicing food delivery workers.
Big apple, small minded... NYC is cracking down on outdoor dining, with the New York Times declaring it the "final days" for the "wild west." Certainly some dining sheds are looking worse for the wear, but it's hard for restaurant owners to make investments in them, given the shifting regulatory landscape. Any spot that goes back to be nothing more than car storage is a loss for its neighborhood...
Safe streets, across the globe: What can American learn from Japan, as we seek to make our streets safer? While we might not be able to build their impressive transit network overnight, there are
some smart policies that could be put into immediate effect. In fact, you need not look any further than Salt Lake City, where the mayor is attempting to close part of the city's burgeoning downtown to auto traffic.
Strike! UPS workers and Teamsters are getting close to going on strike, as their employers rebuff demands for better pay and working conditions. Anyone that wants their holiday presents on time better be rooting for the workers...
Quem você quer para o seu táxi?! Uber, Didi and (Didi-owned) 99 are duking it out for ridehailing marketshare in LatAm, as economies recover (and ride prices rise) post-pandemic.
Migration patterns... Sunbelt cities might not be growing as fast as they were two years ago, but America’s legacy metros continue to shrink. Reversing this trend is imperative to creating cities with thriving pedestrian spaces, working transit, and dense delivery networks. (Aka slowing down GHG emissions growth.)
Big friends in small vehicles: Are you a lover of all things micro, particularly when there's mobility involved? Well then you'd better be headed to the Bay Area next week, where our friends at Micromobility Industries are reconvening their fantastic annual conference, now expanded to two days. If you don't have a ticket yet, today's your last day to save 75%.
The dingbat appreciator has logged on... Don't miss this lovely podcast episode of 99 Percent Invisible, highlighting the humble dingbat, and other regional architectural trends. These small apartments bloomed like wildflowers across Greater LA in the mid-century era, helping the region densify at a time when every other major city across the country was hollowing out. While they may not be the most urbane of form factors, they speak to an era of housing abundance, something we need to return to if we want to restore American cities to being places where everyone can thrive.
Joke's on you! After pivoting to just serve lower labor cost LatAm, JOKR is in talks to raise a big series C, at an impressive $1.3 billion valuation. Looks like instant delivery is fighting on!
A few good links: Building material delivery startup RenoRun cuts staff; Lowe's goes all-in on delivery for pros. Jumia and Zipline team up for drone deliveries in Africa. Boston's got some cool job openings for curb nerds. Self-driver Aurora in trouble.... while Buick axes dealerships. Demand surges for reusable delivery packaging. UML to host shared mobility webinar; talking scooter regulations with Drover's Alex Nesic.
See you in San Diego?
- Jonah Bliss & The Curbivore Crew