Magna testing self-driving delivery bot on Michigan roads

Industry

DETROIT — Magna International Inc. said Wednesday it is testing a last-mile autonomous delivery robot for use on public roads as the supplier giant looks to develop new businesses in the mobility space.

“The plan is to prove the technology — prove it has significantly lower costs than other use cases and other applications being offered — then scale it up into production,” said Matteo Del Sorbo, global lead for Magna’s new mobility unit, in an interview with Automotive News at the Detroit auto show.

The all-electric delivery robot was developed and built in Michigan and launched on a pilot basis in March 2022, according to Magna, the largest North American auto supplier. Since then, the robot has delivered hundreds of pizzas from a Detroit-area restaurant to residents and businesses.

It drives on public roads at speeds of up to 20 mph, according to the supplier. The robot utilizes an autonomous driving system developed by Magna that employs sensors, including radar, lidar and cameras.

Magna said it is collecting data and customer feedback from the pilot to “refine the service” moving forward. The company hopes to build out a “broader range of applications and use cases” for the technology in the future, though Del Sorbo declined to specify a timeframe.

“Because we’re developing internally and utilizing hardware and software Magna has through other applications in higher volume production at automotive grade, we feel we’ll have a competitive advantage over others,” he said.

The news comes just a week after Magna said it is building a fleet of robots for autonomous delivery technology startup Cartken. Magna is slated to assemble thousands of these six-wheeled robots, which are designed to operate on sidewalks as well as indoors.

Magna’s last-mile bot differs from the one the supplier is making for Cartken in that it operates on public roads and can deliver more cargo. The company plans to develop and produce the delivery vehicle entirely in-house as it scales up, Del Sorbo said.

“We have all the capabilities to be able to do this in-house,” he said. “It is essentially a smaller full vehicle. We do contract manufacturing and full-vehicle engineering with Magna Steyr, so this is right in our wheelhouse to do this ourselves.”

Still, Magna will “keep in mind” any potential partner that could offer it a “technical or commercial” advantage, Del Sorbo said.

The delivery robot pilot is part of a bigger push by Magna to expand its offerings in emerging mobility spaces, diversifying its business beyond supplying automotive parts and vehicle assembly. This week, Magna invested $77 million into India EV startup Yulu, which operates 10,000 low-speed electric two-wheelers in Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai there. The company is targeting an additional 15 cities over the next 18 months.

Magna ranks No. 4 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers, with worldwide sales to automakers of $36.2 billion in 2021.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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