California Gets Its First True Autonomous Delivery Service Thanks to Nuro and 7-Eleven
Nuro, a leader in autonomous vans, is partnering with 7-Eleven to launch a new service in California. The company will deliver convenience store products to customers in its autonomous Toyota Prius vehicles, including a safety driver behind the wheel, before eventually switching to its fully self-driving R2 delivery vehicles.
The service is available only to residents living near the 7-Eleven store at 1905 Latham Street in Mountain View, seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Customers can order items such as pizza, chips, drinks and household items through 7-Eleven’s 7NOW delivery app, although age-restricted items such as alcohol and cigarettes will not be available.
Orders will be delivered in 30 minutes or less and customers will have to leave their homes to remove the items from the delivery vehicle while it is parked on the street. (Nuro’s security driver will not deliver the items to the door, as the company is committed to a completely human-free delivery process.)
Nuro will not disclose the number of vehicles it will deploy as part of this early version of its service, nor how soon it plans to move deliveries to its R2 robots. “Nuro and 7-Eleven will jointly make the decision to introduce R2 into the delivery fleet as soon as possible,” said a spokesperson.
Nuro, valued at $5 billion, was founded in 2016 by Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, two veterans of the Google self-driving car project that would become Waymo. Nuro is one of the few US companies that today operates fully self-driving vehicles—that is, vehicles without safety drivers behind the wheel—on public roads. His R2 vehicle is about half the width of a compact sedan, shorter than most cars, and there’s no room inside for human passengers or drivers.
The R2 is an updated version of Nuro’s original R1 prototype, with about 50 percent more capacity (which translates into about 18 extra shopping bags). The company plans to produce a third-generation vehicle at its new Nevada plant once it is fully operational in 2022.
The company is relatively unknown compared to its autonomous vehicle rivals, mainly because of its focus on delivery rather than transporting human passengers in robotic axis. Still, Nuro has made regulatory strides and is the first company to receive a special exemption from certain federal safety requirements and was recently given the green light to charge for its deliveries in California.
Nuro vehicles are already being used to deliver groceries, pizza and deliveries from CVS Pharmacy stores in Houston, Texas. In 2020, Nuro used its vehicles to transport medical supplies around two California stadiums that were converted into treatment facilities for patients with COVID-19.