Around this time last year, robotics startup Nuro was granted a deployment permit in California for its autonomous delivery vehicle. Now the company has partnered with convenience store chain 7-Eleven for the first autonomous commercial delivery service.
“7-Eleven has owned and defined convenience since 1927,” said the chain’s Chief Digital Officer, Raghu Mahadevan. “Our first foray into autonomous delivery was in 2016 when 7-Eleven became the first retailer in the US to make a drone delivery to a customer’s house. Since then, we haven’t stopped looking for ways to redefine convenience for our customers inside and outside the four walls of our stores. Fast forward to 2021, and we are pushing the boundaries of innovation even further to provide customers with the first commercial autonomous delivery service in California. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.”
Nuro reports that the service will begin with a fleet of autonomous Prius hybrid vehicles, before its second-generation delivery pods take over at some point in the future. Unlike the Prius, the 2.74-meter-long (9-ft) R2 doesn’t have room for a human safety driver but can haul up to 190 kg (~420 lb) of bagged-up groceries in its secured cargo bays.
It can roll along on electric drive at up to 40 km/h (25 mph), and gets around with the help of 360-degree overlapping cameras, a thermal imaging camera, LiDAR, short- and long-range radar, and ultrasonics – as well as Nuro’s autonomous control systems.
For the 7-Eleven operation, customers in Mountain View, California, will need to place an order through the store’s 7Now delivery app. The autonomous delivery service is open for business between 8am and 9pm, and once a shopper has checked out and paid, the order is processed and then loaded into an autonomous vehicle for delivery approximately 30 minutes later.
Customers get sent updates via the app, and can then meet the delivery car or bot at the curbside, grab the shopping and go. Once the R2 bots are making deliveries, customers will gain access to their shopping via a touchscreen display on the side of the vehicle.
“With the announcement of our first commercial deployment with 7-Eleven, Nuro is embarking on a real path towards the widespread deployment of our service,” said Nuro CEO, Jiajun Zhu, in a blog post. “We look forward to building on our steady momentum as we look to grow into more and more communities in the near future – hopefully one you call home.”