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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

Updated 59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.

Biden condemns Russian aggression on 7th anniversary of Crimea annexation

Putin giving a speech in Sevastapol, Crimea, in 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and vowed to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in a statement on Friday, the 7th anniversary of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Why it matters: The statement reflects the aggressive approach Biden is taking to Russia, which he classified on the campaign trail as an "opponent" and "the biggest threat" to U.S. security and alliances.