Walmart and Nuro announced a collaboration today in which the two companies will pilot autonomous grocery delivery in Houston, TX via Nuro’s self-driving pod-like vehicles.
According to the press release:
In the coming months, the autonomous delivery service will be available to Houston customers who have opted into the program. The service will use R2, Nuro’s custom-built delivery vehicle that carries only products with no onboard driver or passengers, and autonomous Toyota Priuses, all powered by Nuro’s proprietary self-driving software and hardware.
Nuro’s R2 pods are low-speed vehicles roughly half the size of regular cars. There are two compartments for cargo, and literally no room for a driver. The advantage of the R2 is that is is more nimble than a full-sized auto and can’t drive as fast. This could make it a “safer” choice than self-driving cars as local governments look to regulate the emerging world of autonomous vehicles on city streets.
This is not the first autonomous delivery rodeo for either Walmart or Nuro. Nuro has tested self-driving grocery delivery for Kroger in Arizona as well as Houston. Walmart announced a partnership with self-driving van delivery startup Udelv earlier this year, and with Gaitek in July to make “middle mile” deliveries between Walmart stores.
Questions remain, however, about whether consumers will want fully autonomous grocery delivery devoid of any human. While it opens up a whole new world of around-the-clock delivery, the drawback is that the vehicles stop at the curb, so shoppers still need to go out to the vehicle and lug the groceries back in. Most of the time, that’s probably a first-world problem. However, it becomes more of an issue if you in a fourth-floor apartment or have mobility issues.
Houston, which has become quite the hotbed for self-driving vehicles and robots. In addition to Kroger, Nuro has been doing self-driving pizza delivery for Domino’s there. Starship robots are now rolling around the University of Houston delivering food to hungry students and staff.
Kroger and Nuro’s pilot will first be available to a select group of those who have opted-in to the service, with plans to expand to the general public later in 2020.