Autonomous delivery company Nuro and 7-Eleven just launched what they're billing as the first autonomous commercial delivery service in the state of California. The launch capitalizes on Nuro's receipt of a deployment permit from the California DMV, the first for an AV company.
Like most autonomous delivery testbeds and deployments, the rollout is decidedly modest, but it could portend a near future in urban and suburban areas. Residents of Mountain View, CA, can now order items through 7-Eleven's 7NOW delivery app and receive them via Nuro's autonomous vehicles. The new service will begin with Nuro's self-driving Priuses and later introduce its R2, the company's occupantless autonomous delivery vehicles custom built to transport products and goods.
"Our first foray into autonomous delivery was in 2016 when 7-Eleven became the first retailer in the U.S. to make a drone delivery to a customer's house," says Raghu Mahadevan, 7-Eleven Chief Digital Officer. "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."
Overall, the market for autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and autonomous ground vehicles (AGVs) is forecasted to generate over $10bn by 2023, according to Interact Analysis. That prediction relies on data from before the COVID-19 pandemic. Enterprising companies like Starship Technologies have launched pilot programs in controlled access spaces, such as college campuses. Delivery robot developers, in particular, are capitalizing on touchless fulfillment trends associated with the pandemic.
In December 2020, Nuro achieved a milestone by becoming the first autonomous vehicle company to receive a deployment permit from the CA DMV. The company seems to be rapidly pivoting from development into deployment, particularly in the southwest. Nuro recently announced a $40 million investment to develop its two newest facilities -- an end-of-line manufacturing facility and a world-class closed-course test track. The company has already partnered with some of the country's biggest brands, including Kroger and CVS.
"Residents in the state of California -- a major hub of innovation -- have never been able to experience the commercial delivery of goods by an autonomous vehicle. Nuro is teaming up with 7-Eleven to change that," says Jiajun Zhu, Nuro CEO and Co-Founder. "We've always wanted to bring Nuro's autonomous delivery to our local community and to our neighbors. We couldn't be more excited to do this with an iconic neighborhood store like 7-Eleven in our hometown, Mountain View."