Nuro, maker of autonomous delivery vehicles, has teamed up with Domino's to offer driverless pizza deliveries.
The partnership is to kick off with a trial in Houston, Texas, where Nuro has been operating its driverless vehicles since early 2019. Nuro began making autonomous food deliveries in 2018, having partnered with Kroger.
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Pizzas will be delivered to select Domino's customers in the Houston area using Nuro's custom-built autonomous vehicles. These are not modified cars; instead, they are built for the specific purpose of delivering food without a driver.
As such, there is no space for a human at all, and no conventional controls. Instead, the narrow vehicle - which drives on public roads - has heated and cooled compartments for keeping food fresh, and is unlocked by the recipient on arrival.
Domino's explained how the service will work. "Select customers who order online from one of Domino's participating stores will have the opportunity to use Nuro's autonomous delivery. Once they have opted in, customers can track the vehicle via the Domino's app and will be provided with a unique PIN code to unlock the compartment to get their pizza."
Founded in 2016 by two former members of Google's self-driving vehicle division, now called Waymo, Nuro recently received a $940 million investment from SoftBank, the Japanese technology firm. Nuro is focused entirely on food delivery, instead of targeting the more popular option of creating a robotic taxi service, as Waymo, Uber, Tesla and many others are attempting.
Nuro currently uses its electric R1 vehicle, which is about half the width of a regular car, while also being shorter and with no room for humans inside. The company currently operates six of these, but is planning to use the huge SoftBank cash injection to build a fleet of its updated R2 vehicle.
Nuro said of the Domino's news: "Partnering with Domino's marks an important step on our journey to become the autonomous delivery partner of choice for retailers of all kinds...Together Domino's and Nuro will make pizza delivery even more affordable, accessible, and enjoyable."
Domino's, which is the world's largest pizza company and makes three million deliveries a day, is no stranger to autonomous food deliveries. In 2017 the company worked with Ford to test out a fleet of self-driving cars. Before this, in August 2016, Domino's experimented with delivering pizzas by drone in Whangaparaoa, New Zealand.Speaking of the Nuro partnership, Domino's chief information officer Kevin Vasconi said: "We are always looking for new ways to innovate and evolve the delivery experience for our customer. Nuro's vehicles are specially designed to optimize the food delivery experience, which makes them a valuable partner in our autonomous vehicle journey."