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A Kiwi self driving autonomous package delivery robot parked in Berkeley, California. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

CA DMV's comment period for light-duty delivery AVs ends on May 27th and could usher in a slew of delivery AVs on roads in the state.

Why it matters: Smaller AVs and bots could cover last-mile and even last-meter delivery and possibly reduce the cost of delivering individual packages down to 4 to 7 cents. But the tech's biggest draw is the data it could collect on customer behavior by location.

What’s happening: Companies are experimenting with different delivery bots for different purposes.

  • Last-mile delivery vehicles, roughly the size of passenger cars, travel on public roads, and would generally require customers to go to the curb to pick up deliveries from the vehicle. AV developer Nuro and Kroger, the giant grocery chain, are among those partnering to deliver goods this way.
  • Last-meter delivery bots, which are smaller, can travel on sidewalks and deliver packages door to door. These are being deployed in pilot tests including Postmates' Serve, in Los Angeles, and Amazon's Scout in Seattle.

Yes, but: These delivery systems could collect far more data about a customer's location and residence than, say, Amazon's locker delivery program. And they're designed to make delivery cheaper and more appealing, which could result in customers ordering more purchases via delivery, giving companies even more data about their buying habits.

  • Armed with such data, retailers could, for instance, limit investment in neighborhoods where households spend less than average on groceries, potentially creating food deserts in less affluent areas.

What we are watching: San Francisco, a major early testing ground for small, sidewalk-bound delivery bots banned them on most streets due to a public outcry that they obstruct sidewalks, and has created a permit process for limited testing.

  • It remains to be seen if customers will put up with increasing data collection and possible road congestion, and even sidewalk congestion, for convenience.

Sudha Jamthe is director of DriverlessWorldSchool and teaches AV Business at Stanford Continuing Studies.

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to reflect that the California DMV's proposed regulations address only autonomous delivery vehicles under 10,001 pounds that will use public roads (not sidewalk delivery bots).

Go deeper

Surprising pandemic side effect: Soaring trade deficits

Source: Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals

Inflation and jobs may get all the economic headlines, but meanwhile a big shift is taking place in the underpinnings of the world economy: The U.S. trade deficit is soaring.

What's happening: Americans' spending on imported physical goods has gone through the roof, while exports are growing slowly, making the U.S. the world's consumer of last resort.

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Third Way: "Big Lie" could become "Big Coup"

Graphic: Third Way

Third Way, the center-left think tank, is urging fellow Democrats to respond to the Capitol riot with "the size, scope, and seriousness of a presidential campaign," co-founder Matt Bennett tells me.

Driving the news: "For the first time in U.S. history, a party must mount two parallel presidential campaigns: one to win the election, and the other to prevent its theft," Bennett said, calling this "a Paul Revere moment."

Advocates say Biden has let Haitian migrants down

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Christian Torres/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Continued turmoil in Haiti is causing a growing number of Haitians to try to make it to American shores — and some advocates say the Biden administration isn't supporting this community in its time of crisis.

The big picture: Haitian-American activists in South Florida told Axios Today they feel like President Biden has gone back on campaign promises he made to the community to stand up for them.