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Uber Is Becoming a Robotics Company, CEO Says

UberEats drivers could eventually be replaced with food-delivering robots.

An UberEats driver is the person ferrying wood oven-fired pizzas to customers’ doors these days—but in the future, expect a robot to hand over that pie. That’s because artificially intelligent machines and chatbots will eventually become the human interface for many services we use today, according to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

The start-up founder told an audience at the World Government Summit in Dubai that its users currently call drivers via its app when they can’t locate their Uber, according to CNBC. However, computers will eventually take that call.

“But when the car doesn’t have a driver who do I talk to? I’m going to talk to some AI agent or what they call a chatbot. I’m going to talk to an AI to get connected to that car,” the start-up founder reportedly said.

Kalanick says Uber is expanding beyond mobility solutions, and is beginning to become a robotics company. Evidence of its evolution can be seen in its acquisition of Otto for autonomous technology, and its recent hire of 30-year NASA veteran Mark Moore to work on its self-flying taxi project, Uber Elevate. The company has already begun exploring an on-demand helicopter-based taxi service with Airbus, which plans to release a prototype of an autonomous vertical take off and landing (VTOL) aircraft later this year.

Uber isn’t alone is the belief that AI-powered bots will take over many distribution services. London-based Starship Technologies has teamed with Postmates and DoorDash to test door-to-door food deliveries using robots in Washington, D.C. and Redwood City, Calif. FedEx also believes that droids, rather than humans, may hand over packages in pre-determined drop-off locations in the future. 

This means that the automation arms race isn’t just about mobility and self-driving cars, but the entire supply-chain operation. Disrupting logistics is a multi-trillion dollar game, and one in which Uber is going to have plenty of competition.