Listen to this article
Uber Eats customers in California and Texas may soon have their takeout delivered by an autonomous vehicle. Uber Eats and Nuro signed a 10-year deal to deploy Nuro’s R2 autonomous delivery vehicles in Mountain View, California and Houston, Texas.
The partnership has been a long time coming. Nuro and Uber were reportedly in negotiations back in 2019, but things never panned out until now. The service is scheduled to begin this fall. Neither Uber nor Nuro are sharing specifics about how many autonomous vehicles will be deployed or the size of the operating area. The companies did say, however, that they hope to “expand the service to the greater Bay Area.”
Nuro’s R2 autonomous vehicle is all-electric, has a top speed of 45 MPH and can carry a total of 500 lbs. Nuro was the first company to achieve fully autonomous vehicle operations in three states (Arizona, California, and Texas), and also the first to obtain an autonomous deployment permit from the California DMV. It remains one of only three companies to be granted the permit to date along with Cruise and Waymo.
“Nuro and Uber share a vision in which technology can make everyday life just a little bit easier,” said Noah Zych, global head of autonomous mobility and delivery at Uber. “Nuro’s distinctive autonomous vehicles are a great match for the Uber platform, and this partnership will bring a compelling combination of innovation alongside the convenience, affordability and reliability our customers and merchants have come to expect.”
Nuro has worked with other high-profile partners, including CVS, Domino’s and FedEx to name a few, but there have been some challenges along the way, which is to be expected with such a new technology. Nuro recently laid off employees in Arizona and Houston and closed down operations at its Phoenix Depot. At the time, a source familiar with Nuro’s operations told The Robot Report the company is struggling to progress in Houston, adding that it’s way behind schedule on multiple projects.
Nuro has raised more than $2 billion since it was founded in 2016 by Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu. The two previously worked on Google’s self-driving car project, which would later become Waymo. In December 2021, Nuro and Waymo became two of the first companies to launch delivery services using autonomous vehicles. Nuro started deliveries with its self-driving Prius vehicles that operate autonomously but have a human safety driver behind the wheel.
Uber is also working with Serve Robotics and Motional on robot deliveries in Los Angeles. Serve Robotics operates delivery robots that travel on sidewalks, while Motional uses electric Hyundai Ioniq 5 SUVs with two safety drivers in the front seats.
Uber itself worked on robotaxis for a number of years before selling the division to Aurora in 2020. It was quite a tumultuous endeavor for Uber, which reportedly spent more than $3 billion developing autonomous driving technology that never worked well.