Uber once had grand plans to operate its own driverless taxis — and even unleashed some on the streets of SF that were not ready for prime time and had no permits to operate, as you may recall. Well, having scrapped their driverless car program (as far as we know), Uber is now partnering with Alphabet's Waymo on a pilot program to deliver meals without any driver involved.

So far this is happening only in Phoenix, and only in three specific neighborhoods, as Waymo announced on their blog Wednesday. And there are only a handful of participating restaurants, for now.

"When placing an order in our Phoenix service area, Uber Eats consumers will receive an in-app prompt that says, 'autonomous vehicles may deliver your order.' They will have the opportunity to opt-out during checkout, if delivery by a human courier is preferred."

Should the Uber Eats customer accept robot delivery, the Waymo vehicle will arrive and the customer will be able to open the car's trunk with the app and retrieve their food. No human interaction, and even better, no tip needed!

"We’re excited for this next stage of our partnership with Uber, and to extend the benefits of safe, convenient, all-electric autonomous driving technology to Uber Eats consumers and businesses in Phoenix," Waymo says.

This all feels a bit full circle, and I guess the two companies are feeling like it's water under the bridge after several very contentious years pre-pandemic.

You may recall that Waymo and Uber were in an extended legal fight after a prominent autonomous car engineer, Anthony Levandowski, left a job at Waymo to take an executive role at Uber, and might have taken a trove of company files and autonomous vehicle design specs with him. Alphabet sued over this in early 2017, just a few months after former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick unleashed several early-stage self-driving cars onto the streets of SF before proper testing and permitting had even occurred.

Those vehicles were seen running red lights, and luckily no one was killed by one. Oh wait... Yes, one of Uber's autonomous vehicles, which had a person in the driver's seat at the time who was watching a TV show on her phone, struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona in 2018 who was walking her bike across a roadway. That was pretty much the nail in the coffin of Uber's self-driving car program.

Levandowski was ultimately charged in federal court with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets, he pleaded guilty in 2020, and then Trump pardoned him as one of his last acts in office in January 2021. It's unclear who called in that favor, but Trump went on a spree of pardoning, with 143 pardons on his last day in office, including one for Steve Bannon.

Trump, who is no stranger to civil litigation himself, apparently took pity on Levandowski, issuing a statement saying, "Mr. Levandowski is an American entrepreneur who led Google’s efforts to create self-driving technology. Mr. Levandowski pled guilty to a single criminal count arising from civil litigation. Notably, his sentencing judge called him a ‘brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs.’ Mr. Levandowski has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good."

No, Uber and Waymo are friends, apparently. But this is looking like another example of AI removing humans from the equation of a job — something that Uber seemed to be intent on doing in launching its self-driving car program nearly a decade ago. Humans are still driving all of Uber's rideshare cars, with Waymo now only taking a small chunk of that business away in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Arizona for those who enjoy the novelty or don't like talking to human drivers.

That could bring tensions later on, especially if Waymo rolls out enough cars to put a serious dent in the rideshare market.

But for now, Phoenix residents, enjoy the novelty of a robot car delivering your Princess Pita orders and Bosa Donuts!

Previously: Just as Waymo Launches In Los Angeles, Statewide Bill Gains Momentum to Allow More Local Control of Robocars