Nov 18, 2021 Company

Introducing DoorDash Labs: DoorDash’s Robotics and Automation Arm

By Stanley Tang, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer and Harrison Shih, Director and Head of Product, DoorDash Labs

DoorDash is a technology company committed to advancing last mile logistics. We have built our product and technologies around supporting small businesses, entrepreneurs, and people looking for flexible ways to earn. We have been fascinated with robotics, automation, and their potential to improve how we work and live from the very beginning. That’s why, in 2018, we founded DoorDash Labs.

Starting in a conference room, we began building a small, scrappy team committed to the promise of automation and robotics technologies, and more importantly, the value they can bring to the customers we serve: merchants, Dashers, and consumers. 

Operational excellence is one of our first principles. Over the last several years, we’ve tested warehouse automation solutions and drones, partnered with industry players like Starship Technologies, Marble Robot, and Cruise Automation, and expanded our team with strategic acquisitions, including that of Chowbotics earlier this year. Our team’s mission is to find, develop, and integrate automation and robotic solutions that improve the way we operate and serve our communities. 

The unique problem that DoorDash Labs is working to solve

For years, DoorDash has studied and assessed the delivery process, identified common problems, and built viable solutions for our organization. Early on, we recognized the potential for emerging transportation technologies to complement our logistics network, and as DoorDash has grown, we’ve identified a gap in existing automation applications to serve our stakeholders.

Operating a three-sided marketplace involves dynamic variables and distinct challenges, and makes both our problem and solution unique––one no one else has solved with automation today. 

We understand how to successfully balance Dasher travel with merchants’ needs and consumer expectations. The DNA of our organization is rooted in these details. It’s also why we believe DoorDash is uniquely positioned to utilize these technologies in a way that enhances the benefits of on-demand delivery and logistics across our communities.

Pioneering a new way of thinking about deliveries

Dashers do a number of tasks during each delivery, and driving or biking is only one part of that.  Similar to how the introduction of ATM machines enabled bank tellers to focus on a wider variety of tasks – and created expanded job opportunities across the banking industry – we believe that integrating robotics within the delivery process can support Dashers in unlocking new efficiencies. For example, in automating the middle mile, we could reduce the individual effort for each delivery, which we anticipate could enable Dashers to fulfill more orders in the same time period and potentially earn more, more quickly. 

Our goal is to facilitate automation across the most repetitive part of delivery and ensure the best experience for Dashers. With this technology, we see a world where Dashers could deliver more efficiently, and where we could fulfill more orders for merchants––ultimately improving the DoorDash experience for all.

Building practical solutions for today’s problems

We are building for practicality, creating a platform that is technology agnostic and can seamlessly integrate to power cost-efficient, on-demand deliveries. While we are excited to work with all autonomy solutions, we believe that providing a vertically integrated solution within DoorDash will benefit our stakeholders with a more immediate application and effectiveness that’s built to scale. 

Drawing on years of operational experience and identified needs within DoorDash, the Labs team is exploring a ‘hub to hub model’. In this instance, we would aggregate orders in an area with high merchant density, like a shopping mall or DashMart, and have a robot ferry the order to a consumer hub––thus moving the Dasher pickup location closer to the delivery point.

Our team is actively building the tools that support autonomy alongside the complexities and dynamism of our Marketplace. Logistics require tight integration for handoffs and assignments, so we’ve built our dispatch system to accommodate robotic integration. We’ve identified exactly how automation can enhance the delivery experience today, and are testing very specific integration points within our network.

Continuing to build our team, with new leadership

Over the last three years, DoorDash Labs has gone from discovery to business validation, and are now in the next phase of our growth: real-world application. To fulfill our vision, we are further building out our team with leaders in the autonomy space who can help take us to the next level. Today, we are excited to welcome Ashu Rege, one of the industry’s preeminent experts, as our new Vice President of Autonomy. 

Ashu joins DoorDash and our DoorDash Labs team from Zoox, where he’s spent the last several years leading the development of the company’s entire software stack, both on-vehicle and offline. In his six years at Zoox, he grew the team from six engineers to 600 engineers and 150 operators. Prior to that, he was an early leader at Nvidia, advancing the company’s engineering initiatives around computer vision, autonomous vehicles, robotics, drones, and more.

Together, our goal is to develop and deploy incremental automated delivery solutions that integrate into DoorDash operations over the next few years. We are thrilled to continue building toward this vision in the near future, with Ashu on board.

Leveraging automation to create a net benefit for all

At DoorDash, we see automation as a priority and a means to develop the right platform solution. Long-term, we are thinking about how we can continue to satisfy consumer demand with an adequate supply of Dashers for deliveries across the globe. Our team at DoorDash Labs believes in using these technologies to augment human networks, not replace them. We’re proud of the technology we have developed to-date, and are committed to closely collaborating with the industry, governments, and our merchants to ensure what we bring to market is safe and productive. 

We are proud to introduce the DoorDash Labs team, and invite you to work with us––whether as a teammate to build this incredible technology or a business partner to help bring this to market. If you are motivated by this shared vision, please visit https://labs.doordash.com/ to view our open roles and learn more, and stay tuned for news and updates from the Labs team.