Optimus Ride New York

Autonomous Shuttle Opens in Brooklyn, Uber Health to Provide Medical Transport to Anthem Patients

This past week, Optimus Ride starts their self-driving shuttle service in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard, Postmates gets the OK to start testing robo-deliveries in San Francisco, and Uber Health scores a huge win for their new medical transportation service.

This Week in Mobility ― August 16, 2019

Postmates to Test Serve Robots in San Francisco

San Francisco Public Works confirmed Postmates will be testing their new Serve robots in the city. The permit hasn’t yet been issued, and it’s unclear when deliveries will begin.

This is the second robo-delivery test for Postmates. Back in 2017, the company partnered with robot manufacturer Starship Technologies to test robo-deliveries in Washington, DC. DoorDash also tested Starship Tech robots in Redwood City, CA.

Postmates Serve robots can carry up to 50 pounds over short distances and include a touchscreen for customer interaction. Customers order via the Postmates app as normal and are provided with an unlock code to get their deliveries.

Will robo-deliveries replace the need for human drivers? Not hardly. Postmates sees its Serve fleet as a way to lower the cost of short-range deliveries. Because the robots travel at low speed on city sidewalks using lidar sensors, there’s no way they could replace Postmates drivers. At least not yet.

Optimus Ride Self-Driving Shuttle Opens in Brooklyn

Autonomous shuttle service began in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard last Tuesday.

Optimus Ride partnered up with The Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation to provide six AVs to provide transportation from the ferry to workers in the area.

The shuttle operates between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. in a loop from the ferry to the entrance. Currently, there are two other free shuttles that provide transportation to 13 subway lines, but there was no transportation to and from the ferry.

With over 10,000 workers, Brooklyn’s Navy Yard is known for being highly congested and not easily accessible from the ferry. This new service will change that.

Is it possible that the AV shuttle will replace the other two shuttle lines that run to the subway? It’s unclear at this time. Until Optimus Ride gets the kinks worked out, probably not.

MEVP Invests $2M in Pakistani Startup Bykea

Dubai-based Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) announced it has invested $2 million in Pakistani-based startup Bykea.

Bykea is similar to Didi Chuxing, and services run the gamut from mobile payments to ride-hailing to food delivery.

The investment was part of Bykea’s $5.7 million Series A round of investments. It is the largest investment round for any Pakistan-based startup ever.

Pakistan is ripe for a service like this. Bykea claims to have a network of 200,000 drivers and over two million app users so far. In a country of 200 million people where getting around is difficult due to traffic and lack of access to vehicles, Bykea fills a huge need.

But there’s plenty of competition for Bykea. Other companies include Pathao, Parsel, and ShadowFax. However, these companies are all based in other countries. Bykea differentiates itself by being the only app with an interface in Urdu, the country’s official language.

Bykea has a long road ahead. By continuing to raise investor capital and differentiating themselves from the competition, they are sure to become Pakistan’s biggest logistics vendor yet.

Car Rental App Car2Go Significantly Raises Rates

In order to keep up with rising costs and competition from ridesharing companies like Uber, rental app company Car2Go is increasing their rates.

The company rents cars by the minute and is changing rates to reflect how busy the service is. Car2Go’s new pricing structure is similar to Uber and Lyft. Advertised prices will show floor rates, which are the lowest possible per minute rates for a rental. Actual prices will vary.

The company decreased prices on its 24-hour pass from $79 to $70, but there’s a per-mile charge of 19 cents.

Another change encourages drivers to return cars to a particular zone. Drivers who return cars to “outer zones” will be charged an additional $5.

We think these price hikes are a bad idea. All this will do is confuse current customers. With a pricing structure similar to Uber and Lyft, customers are more likely to catch a ride rather than deal with the hassle of renting a car they have to drive themselves.

Uber Health Scores Big in New National Partnership

Uber Health recently announced its partnership with American Logistics Company,one of the nation’s largest medical transportation providers.

American Logistics provides health insurance companies with transportation services to help enrollees get to and from doctor’s appointments. Their biggest client is Anthem, which is the second-largest health insurance company in the United States.

Non-Emergency Medical Transport (NEMT) is a fast-growing industry, as insurance companies see immense value in helping their clients get to and from doctor’s appointments. This cuts down on the number of emergency room visits and saves insurers money.

Is Uber Health the answer to the company’s big losses? Maybe. However, regulatory hurdles make it expensive to ensure HIPAA compliance.

Optimus Ride New York

Uber Raising $1B, Optimus Primes NYC and Waymo Announces a New Fleet Center

This Week In On Demand― March 21, 2019

This week, NYC gets its first autonomous shuttle service, more transit authorities are looking to ridesharing partnerships to fill gaps in service, and UberEats invests in real estate.

Self Driving Shuttle Coming to New York City

MIT-based company Optimus Ride is bringing New York City’s first driverless shuttle program to private roads in New York City. The shuttle provides rides for ferry passengers in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to an industrial center with over 400 businesses.

Current New York legislation allows autonomous vehicle testing and trials on roads with a permit from the DMV, but this permit is expiring next month. The loop shuttle service is different than autonomous vehicles operating on public roads. These vehicles carry multiple passengers and operate on the same route daily.

The public is generally opposed to autonomous vehicle programs on public roads, especially after Uber made headlines when one of its driverless fleet struck and killed an Arizona woman. By providing driverless vehicle services in private communities, Optimus Ride is working to change the public perception of autonomous vehicles. This smart move will hopefully pay off: they are also heading similar programs in private communities in Washington, DC and California.

ButterFLi Grant Provides Ridesharing Services to Disabled LA Residents

The LA Department of Transportation provided a grant to help Angelinos with accessibility issues get reduced fare rides in downtown LA. Ridesharing service ButterFLi provides rides during times when public transit services are not readily available. The grant allows eligible riders to receive $2 rides within an 8-mile service area eight times per month through FlexLA, a ridesharing pilot program.

As government transit authorities contend with aging fleets, high maintenance costs, and a lack of services during late night hours, partnering with ridesharing companies provide an easier alternative to handling services in-house. Though the current trend is to use larger companies like Lyft and Uber, smaller ridesharing companies like ButterFLi that win these transit contracts enjoy more consistent revenue and brand awareness.

Uber Raising $1B in Advance of IPO for Autonomous Program

In advance of its April IPO, Uber is in talks to raise $1 billion for its autonomous vehicle unit. Part of the money is likely coming from Softbank. The capital would provided a much-needed injection to the company, as many have questioned the progress in their driverless car program. TechCrunch estimates Uber has spent as much as $20 million per month on the program.

If Uber is able to raise the money, their autonomous vehicle program, which includes the Freight program that’s launching in Europe, would be valuated at $10 billion. The company itself is valuated at $70 billion, even with net losses up 32% quarter-over-quarter late last year.

Uber’s upcoming IPO gives investors an incentive to sink capital into the company. The move is a win for everyone; if the deal goes through before the IPO, it will make the company more attractive to buyers during the IPO.

Waymo Opening New Fleet Center in Mesa, Arizona

Waymo is opening a new 85,000 square foot center to service its Waymo One self-driving cars in Mesa, Arizona.

Waymo self driving vehicle on road.


The move makes sense since it began operating its on demand driverless car service in Phoenix in December. Business is booming for Waymo. They’ve received approval to open a manufacturing facility in Michigan and are allegedly in talks to open a driverless taxi service.

A survey from AAA shows that Americans are still uneasy about autonomous cars. 71% of respondents said they were afraid to ride in driverless cars.

Waymo provides a human backup driver in the car, which helps ease the fears of new riders. A report by the California DMV shows Waymo’s cars needed less human intervention in 2018 than prior years. With human intervention required once every 11,154 miles, Waymo’s cars are the safest. By continuing to encourage the use of on demand driverless car services, companies like Waymo can improve the perception of autonomous vehicles on city streets.

UberEats Investing in Real Estate for Food Delivery

secret pilot program by UberEats in Paris shows the company is now in the real estate business.

Bloomberg reports the company is leasing vacant real estate and turning them into commercial kitchens for the sole purpose of food delivery.

The program rents these “ghost kitchens” to restaurants to use as satellite locations for food delivery only. The catch? UberEats provides the delivery services.

Uber isn’t the only one in the game. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick operates a similar company, CloudKitchens, part of a larger real estate company, City Storage Systems. The biggest difference is that CloudKitchens buys distressed real estate instead of leasing it. Unlike UberEats, which provides delivery service through its app, CloudKitchens customers have the freedom to use as many delivery providers as they choose. The service also provides labor at the locations, requiring restaurants to drop off food and CloudKitchens does the rest.

CloudKitchens is already operating in LA, with plans to expand into Chicago soon.

Not only does this provide a way for restaurants to expand operations without taking on the burden of opening a new location, new restaurant owners can enter into markets with less overhead.