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Nuro, a 2020 RBR50 Innovation Award winner, is launching autonomous pizza delivery in Houston this week with Domino’s. Select customers who place an online order – on certain days and times – from the Domino’s in Woodland Heights can have their food delivered by Nuro’s R2 robot.
Customers who are selected for delivery via the Nuro R2 will receive text alerts updating them on R2’s location and provide them with a unique PIN to retrieve their order. Customers may also track the vehicle via GPS on their order confirmation page. When the Nuro R2 arrives, customers will be prompted to enter their PIN on the vehicle’s touchscreen.
The two companies said this marks the first time meals will be delivered by an electric, self-driving, occupant-less vehicle in Houston. Woodland Heights is mainly a residential area, but it is surrounded by the I-45 and I-10 highways. Nuro and Domino’s first announced a partnership in Houston in 2019, so it has been mapping the area for some time now. That same year, Nuro also announced deals with Kroger in Houston and Phoenix.
“We’re excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino’s customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston,” said Dennis Maloney, Domino’s senior vice president and chief innovation officer. “There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations. The growing demand for great-tasting pizza creates the need for more deliveries, and we look forward to seeing how autonomous delivery can work along with Domino’s existing delivery experts to better support the customers’ needs.”
In February 2020, Nuro became the first autonomous vehicle developer to be given exemptions by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for testing on public roads without the need to have controls for human operators. Unlike many other autonomous vehicle companies, Nuro engineered its self-driving road vehicles to transport goods instead of people.
In April, Nuro received a second permit, this time granted by the state of California, allowing the company to test the Nuro R2 on certain public roads in sections of nine cities within Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
“Nuro’s mission is to better everyday life through robotics. Now, for the first time, we’re launching real world, autonomous deliveries with R2 and Domino’s,” said Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president. “We’re excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino’s customers in Houston. We can’t wait to see what they think.”
Nuro recently added new investors to its $500 million Series C funding round that it announced in November 2020. Joining the round are Woven Capital and Chipotle Mexican Grill. In February 2019, Nuro raised $940 million in Series B round that was led by the Softbank Vision Fund. Nuro was founded in 2016 by Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, both former Alphabet engineers who worked on the company’s autonomous vehicle efforts, which have since become Waymo. Andrew Clare, Nuro’s head of robots, delivered a keynote at RoboBusiness Direct called “Building Zero Occupant Autonomous Vehicles to Accelerate the Benefits of Robotics Today.” You can listen to the session on demand here.