Automatic refill: Driverless prescription delivery is here

Coming off pandemic, health is a growth sector for robots.

nuro-driving-in-traffic.jpg

A company targeting the nascent driverless urban delivery market is now testing an autonomous prescription delivery service. Nuro, which has been opening up delivery testbeds and was recently awarded a DOT exemption for driverless delivery, has revealed plans along with CVS Pharmacy to test prescription delivery in Houston, Texas, beginning in June.

Special Feature

Special Report: Robotics in the enterprise (free PDF)

This ebook, based on the latest ZDNet / TechRepublic special feature, looks at how the explosive growth in robotics is affecting specific industries, like healthcare and logistics, and the enterprise more broadly on issues like hiring and workplace safety.

Read More

Founded by former Google engineers Jiajun Zhu and Dave Ferguson, Nuro's business model is to deploy a fleet of small, self-driving vans on an as-a-service basis for last-mile urban delivery. According to the company, its pint-sized, battery-powered vans are safer than human-piloted vehicles and will relieve congestion and pollution by taking bigger delivery trucks off crowded city streets.

The prescription delivery testbed is a first-of-its-kind rollout in the autonomous delivery space and suggests significant faith in Nuro's identification and security protocols by CVS and the city of Houston. Customers in the pilot area who are placing prescription orders via CVS.com or the CVS Pharmacy app can choose the autonomous delivery option, and add other non-prescription items to their order. To ensure the security of their prescriptions, customers will need to confirm their identification to unlock their delivery when Nuro's autonomous vehicle arrives curbside at their home. Deliveries will be free of charge to CVS Pharmacy customers.

"We are seeing an increased demand for prescription delivery," says Ryan Rumbarger, Senior Vice President of Store Operations, CVS Health. "We want to give our customers more choice in how they can quickly access the medications they need when it's not convenient for them to visit one of our pharmacy locations."

The Nuro rollout comes amid a larger push among autonomous delivery companies to capitalize on social distancing and stay-at-home orders during the pandemic. In general the sector is expected to see a significant boost in terms of public awareness. With lingering wariness over doctor's visits and seniors in particular feeling pressure not to risk exposure in public places, it makes sense that Nuro is targeting health markets.

"Today, we are excited to expand into an entirely new vertical: health," says Dave Ferguson, Nuro's Co-Founder and President. "Through our partnership with CVS, we hope to make it easier for customers to get medicine, prescriptions, and the other things they need delivered directly to their homes."

Nuro has raised more than $1 billion in financing from investors including Softbank and Greylock and shares partnerships with leading brands such as Walmart, Domino's and Kroger.