Waymo, Nuro Launch Robo-Delivery Services In California

Waymo is to launch an autonomous grocery delivery service in California in early 2022, joining a similar commercial service begun by Nuro last week.

Nuro, which received California’s first permit for a commercial robo-delivery service a year ago, is initially making deliveries using its self-driving Prius cars, which operate autonomously but have a human backup driver.

It plans to eventually switch to using its R2 cars, which are purpose-built for deliveries and have no driver’s seat, steering wheel or controls.

In February 2020 Nuro became the first company to be given exemptions by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for testing on public roads without controls for human operators.

Image credit: Waymo

Robo-delivery

The Prius robo-fleet is currently handling orders placed in the Mountain View area through 7-Eleven’s 7NOW app between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., with orders typically delivered within 30 minutes after they’re placed.

“We’ve always wanted to bring Nuro’s autonomous delivery to our local community and to our neighbors,” said Nuro chief executive and co-founder Jiajun Zhu. “We couldn’t be more excited to do this with an iconic neighborhood store like 7-Eleven in our hometown, Mountain View.”

Since Nuro became the first company to be given an autonomous vehicle deployment permit from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles last December, two other autonomous-driving companies, Cruise and Waymo, have been given similar authorisations.

Nuro already offers delivery services in Houston, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona.

The company raised $600 million (£453m) in a funding round last month, for a total of $2.1bn in funding to date.

Groceries

Meanwhile, Waymo is working with US supermarket chain Albertson’s and its Safeway subsidiary to launch a limited grocery delivery service in San Francisco.

Initially Waymo plans to offer the service only to Safeway employees, but intends to open it up to other customers later.

The company began testing a robotaxi service in the city in August.

Cruise in November began offering fully autonomous taxi rides to its employees in San Francisco, operating without a safety driver. Rides are also being offered to some members of the public, but they won’t be charged a fare.

Cruise co-founder, chief technology officer and president Kyle Vogt said his ride on the afternoon of Monday, 1 November was the first-ever trip by a driverless robotaxi in San Francisco.

Waymo’s cars still require a safety driver.

Waymo co-chief executive Tekedra Mawakana told a conference last week that the company has given robotaxi rides to hundreds of people in San Francisco in August, with tens of thousands more on its waitlist.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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