Serve Robotics’ driverless delivery robots have become the first to complete commercial deliveries at Level 4 autonomy. This milestone means the San Francisco-based walking pace pavement delivery robots are able to operate routinely without human intervention, and can rely on their onboard capabilities to ensure safe operation.

This industry first, says Serve Robotics, represents a major step forward for the autonomous vehicle industry, “significantly lowering the barriers for autonomous delivery at scale”.

Level 4 autonomy is the ability to navigate without human intervention in designated areas. The company’s robots are equipped with an extensive array of technologies that ensure safety by utilising multiple layers of redundant systems for critical navigation functions. This includes multiple sensor modalities—active sensors such as lidar and ultrasonics, as well as passive sensors such as cameras—to navigate safely on busy city sidewalks.

Serve Robotics’ achievement required development of a wide range of market-leading capabilities, such as automatic emergency braking, vehicle collision avoidance, and fail-safe mechanical braking.

“I’m proud that Serve Robotics has achieved Level 4 autonomy, which further enhances public safety by significantly reducing the potential for human error. This milestone begins to unlock the full potential of robotic delivery,” said Serve Robotics co-founder and CEO, Dr Ali Kashani. “This technical and commercial milestone is an achievement for the entire AV industry, and accelerates our mission to make delivery more accessible and sustainable.”

Serve’s technical breakthrough was possible with input from key technology partners, notably NVIDIA and Ouster. The NVIDIA Jetson platform, designed for robots and other autonomous machines, powers the AI computing necessary for the robots to understand their complex environment in real time. Ouster’s lidar sensors provide the small, lightweight, power-efficient sensing technology that enables the robots’ reliable self-driving capabilities.

“Serve Robotics’ accomplishment represents a breakthrough for commercial deployment of AV technology for sidewalk delivery,” said Murali Gopalakrishna, General Manager for Robotics at NVIDIA. “We look forward to Serve continuing to leverage the NVIDIA Jetson edge AI and Isaac robotics platforms to further advance their technological lead.”

Serve’s self-driving robots have successfully completed tens of thousands of contactless deliveries in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Founded in 2017 as the robotics division of Uber delivery service Postmates, Serve was spun off as an independent company in February 2021 backed by Uber along with 7-Eleven, Delivery Hero and other international investors.