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My 10-year old son likes to outline for me the types of mischief he and his friends will get into once they start driving. Because he is 10, it usually amounts to driving over to the Jiffy Mart to load up on gummy worms.
I, of course, play along, but in my head I’ve often thought will you even need a driver’s license in six years? I mean, won’t he just get into a self-driving car? Or, more specifically for our Spoon-y purposes, won’t a self-driving delivery car just bring a trove of gummy worms to our house?
I realize that high-tech scenario is a.) more than little indulgent for a pack of gummy worms, and b.) is probably on a timeline that is a little too aggressive. Six years (when he turns sixteen) is not that far off, and there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome. But, this week saw some developments that show that the self-driving delivery sector is accelerating.
Let’s start with the pizza, because everyone loves pizza. Domino’s announced this week that it has partnered with Nuro for autonomous pizza delivery in a Houston Texas neighborhood. Nuro’s self-driving R2 is a low-speed pod-like vehicle that only holds cargo and doesn’t even have room for a driver. Customers ordering from the participating Domino’s opt to get their pizza via R2, and when it arrives, they use a special pin to unlock the pod’s door and get their pizza.
Domino’s isn’t the only QSR chain taking a shine to Nuro. Last month Chipotle revealed that it had invested in the Nuro as part of the startup’s Series C round.
It’s easy to understand why Nuro is attracting big brands to its little delivery pod. Nuro has been doing the work when it comes to working with regulatory bodies. Both the federal government and the State of California gave Nuro greenlights to operate on public roads last year. On the technology side, the company showed last year that its R2 had been operating fully autonomously (no chase cars) in three different states for months.
Not to be left out, retail giant Walmart announced that it had invested in self-driving startup Cruise. The two companies had already been working together on autonomous grocery deliveries since November, so Walmart must like what it’s seen so far.
In addition to cash though, Walmart also provides Cruise with a scaling infrastructure. Walmart has more than 5,000 locations across the U.S. with millions of customers. That’s a huge pool of potential autonomous deliveries. Walmart is already working with Gatik for self-driving deliveries along the middle mile. Extending that autonomy out to the last mile wouldn’t be easy (home deliveries are more complex than doing the same middle mile route back and forth), but it appears to be definitely on the company’s roadmap.
And if all that weren’t enough self-driving news, on Monday Udelv announced a whole new line of Transporter delivery vehicles this week. The Transporter features a more pod-like shape (no room for humans) and will use Mobileye’s self-driving technology. The company plans to produce more than 35,000 Transporters by 2028, and has already received its first pre-order of 1,000 units.
Of course, even though there is all this exciting activity in the self-driving delivery vehicle space, there are still technological and state-by-state regulatory hoops to jump through. We will actually be discussing these types of issues at our upcoming ArticulATE food automation virtual summit on May 18. We have guest speakers from Gatik, Pix, Designated Driver and more who will tell us firsthand what the challenges and opportunities are for self-driving vehicles. Get your ticket today and enjoy it from the comfort of your home office. You can even snack on gummy worms during the show if you like (delivery not included).
Les Nouvelles Fermes Raises €2M to Expand Its Aquaponics Farms – Fish and plants living in harmony in an enclosed system, growing food together.
Survey: Online Grocery Sales Back up to $9.3B in March, Pickup Remains Dominant – Curbside pickup is still the favorite among customers.
Element Farms Plans a New High-Tech Greenhouse Customized for Growing Spinach – This will be the company’s second farm, and will be a 2.5-acre facility designed specifically to grow baby spinach.
Atlast Food Co. Secures $40M Series A Round to Expand Whole Cut Plant-Based Meat Analogues – The company’s use of mycelium allows them to create a wide variety of meat alternatives like filet mignon, chicken breast, and even fish.