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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

1 hour ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.