Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this spring, General Motors’ autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise has been giving back to the San Francisco community. The company has been partnering with nonprofit SF New Deal to help local food banks deliver groceries to those in need. So far, Cruise self-driving prototypes have made 50,000 contactless deliveries in the area.
An opportunity for self-driving cars to shine
According to Medium’s Robert Grant, the volunteer effort began back in March when Cruise employees heard how food banks in the area were struggling to meet the surge in demand. These entities started brainstorming ways to scale their delivery to reach more households.
Cruise soon stepped in, offering its fleet of AV prototypes to deliver food essentials to San Francisco residents. More than 80 percent of these deliveries targeted neighborhoods below the city’s poverty line.
Though Cruise AV test operators currently ride along on the deliveries, as a security measure, this volunteer effort has shown how the company’s AVs are uniquely positioned to serve the community in pandemic situations. Once AV technology becomes safer and human test operators aren’t needed, these vehicles could play a key role in crisis relief in the event of future pandemics.
Cruise AVs are not only providing essential services to San Franciscans. This project has also empowered Cruise staff with a new sense of purpose during the COVID-19 outbreak. “We are not just delivering food, we have managed to integrate into the fabric of our city with organizations now interacting with us and helping us identify opportunities to put our AVs to even greater benefit to our community,” said Cruise AV test operator Francis Sherry.
It will be interesting to see how Cruise and other self-driving car entities leverage their fleets to perform necessary services nationwide, as we all wait for the pandemic to subside. Hopefully, more AV companies will follow Cruise’s lead in partnering with local organizations to help Americans in need during this uncertain time.