Nuro, the autonomous automobile startup based by two ex-Google engineers, will use its small fleet of road-legal supply robots to move prescription drugs to CVS clients in Houston, Texas, the businesses introduced on Thursday.
The deliveries will begin in June and can come at no further cost to CVS clients in Houston. To start out out, Nuro will use its fleet of Toyota Priuses outfitted with self-driving know-how to make the deliveries and can change to its purpose-built driverless R2 autos later. The corporate will solely make deliveries from one CVS pharmacy as a part of its pilot program earlier than branching out to serve different shops.
In an announcement, CVS VP of retailer operations Ryan Rumbarger mentioned the corporate has seen an elevated demand for deliveries within the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “We need to give our clients extra selection in how they will shortly entry the drugs they want when it’s not handy for them to go to considered one of our pharmacy areas,” Rumbarger mentioned.
Clients within the service space who’re inserting prescription orders through CVS.com or the CVS app can select the autonomous supply choice and add different non-prescription objects to their order. They can even want to substantiate their id to unlock their supply when Nuro’s autonomous automobile arrives curbside at their residence.
This represents a shift in Nuro’s typical operations, that are targeted on grocery and meals supply in Arizona and Texas. Along with a small variety of R2 autos, the corporate additionally conducts deliveries utilizing its retrofitted Toyota Priuses with two security drivers in every. However because of social distancing guidelines, the corporate is simply utilizing one security driver per automobile for its supply routes in Arizona and Texas, and it’s largely working its automobile manually. Final month, Nuro mentioned it will start utilizing its R2 autos to move medical provides round two California stadiums which were transformed into therapy services for individuals with COVID-19.
The corporate has the excellence of being the primary autonomous automobile operator to obtain a federal exemption to mass-produce driverless autos with out conventional controls like steering wheels or sideview mirrors. Nuro additionally was not too long ago authorised to check its driverless supply robots on public roads in California, turning into solely the second firm to obtain such a allow.
The pandemic has made it an especially precarious time for self-driving automotive corporations, particularly these which were unable to safe sufficient funding to maintain their operations by way of an prolonged shutdown. Nuro, which obtained practically $1 billion from Japanese agency SoftBank final yr, is seen as one of many better-capitalized corporations.
The pandemic can also be forcing some autonomous automobile corporations to rethink their robotaxi aspirations and ponder pivoting to deliveries. Nuro, which has at all times been completely targeted on deliveries, could possibly be uniquely positioned to learn from these circumstances.