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DoorDash takes another step toward automated food delivery

DoorDash takes another step toward automated food delivery


Acquisition of Scotty Labs gives company access to autonomous and remote-controlled vehicle tech

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Food delivery company DoorDash has acquired Scotty Labs, a startup focused on developing autonomous and remote-controlled vehicle tech. Announcing the acquisition in a Medium post, Scotty Labs’ CEO Tobenna Arodiogbu said that the company’s “core belief” was that “autonomy and remote assistance will be the future of logistics,” but did not give more details on what specifically the company would be working on under DoorDash.

TechCrunch speculates that the acquisition is the latest attempt by DoorDash to reduce its reliance on human delivery drivers, by using more automated systems to deliver food. Back in 2017 the company partnered with Starship Technologies to test food deliveries using a small semi-autonomous robot, and earlier this year it started working with GM to use its autonomous vehicles to deliver food in San Francisco. 

DoorDash has faced criticism over its treatment of its workers

DoorDash has had a difficult relationship with its human delivery drivers recently, after it emerged that the company was using customer tips to pay its workers’ wages, rather than passing them along on top of a base salary. After a backlash, the company promised to end the practice, but has so far failed to deliver on the promise. Like Uber, DoorDash appears to be biding its time until human drivers can be removed from the equation entirely.

Scotty Labs’ technology could be very helpful in enabling DoorDash’s driver-less future. In his Medium post, Aroodiogbu says that Scotty Labs recently tested a self-driving truck on a Californian highway, and controlled a car remotely in San Francisco. It wouldn’t be a huge leap to imagine the company’s technology applied to automated food deliveries.

Scotty Labs is the second acquisition announced by DoorDash this month, after it purchased Square’s food delivery platform Caviar for $410 million. With these two acquisitions, DoorDash is assembling both the technology and the restaurant partnerships to entrench itself as a serious force in the US’s increasingly competitive food delivery market.