7-Eleven and Nuro Are Launching a Commercial Autonomous Delivery Service in California
Convenience store 7-Eleven, which has been a popular stop for snacks, beverages and essentials for decades, is getting into the delivery business in the most high-tech way possible. The company announced a new partnership with autonomous vehicle developer Nuro, in which customers will have their 7-Eleven orders delivered by one of the company's autonomous delivery vehicles.
The service kicks off in Mountain View, California in the heart of Silicon Valley, where Nuro's headquarters is located. Customers in the service area can place their orders order through 7-Eleven's "7NOW" smartphone app to have their products delivered one of Nuro's driverless vehicles.
"Residents in the state of California – a major hub of innovation – have never been able to experience the commercial delivery of goods by an autonomous vehicle. Nuro is teaming up with 7-Eleven to change that," said Jiajun Zhu, Nuro CEO and Co-Founder. "We've always wanted to bring Nuro's autonomous delivery to our local community and to our neighbors. We couldn't be more excited to do this with an iconic neighborhood store like 7-Eleven in our hometown, Mountain View."
The 7NOW app, which launched in 2017, allows customers to order food, alcohol, candy, snacks, drinks, ice cream grocery items and more. Deliveries generally take about 30 minutes. Currently human drivers are fulfilling 7-Eleven's online orders, but in the near future more of Nuro's delivery vehicles will be used to make deliveries.
The 7NOW delivery service is currently available in over 200 cities across 43 major metro areas including Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. The service cities give Nuro a big opportunity to scale its autonomous delivery partnership with 7-Eleven to other cities.
"7-Eleven has owned and defined convenience since 1927," said Raghu Mahadevan, 7-Eleven Chief Digital Officer. "Our first foray into autonomous delivery was in 2016 when 7-Eleven became the first retailer in the U.S. to make a drone delivery to a customer's house. Since then, we haven't stopped looking for ways to redefine convenience for our customers inside and outside the four walls of our stores. Fast forward to 2021, and we are pushing the boundaries of innovation even further to provide customers with the first commercial autonomous delivery service in California. I can't wait to see where we go from here."
Once a customer launches the app and places an order from their local 7-Eleven store, there will be an option to choose autonomous delivery. Nuro's Autonomous vehicle deliveries are available daily from 8:00am to 9:00pm at no additional charge for customers in Mountain View, CA.
Once the Nuro vehicle arrives, cusotmers meet the autonomous vehicle outside and retrieve their items from the vehicle.
Unlike many Silicon Valley startups working on self-driving vehicles designed to carry passengers, Nuro is building a fleet of compact cargo vehicles for last-mile deliveries and ecommerce.
The Nuro vehicles can be built more quickly and inexpensively, as they are not designed to ever carry people. Since they won't transport humans, the Nuro R2 vehicles don't require a steering wheel, pedals, windshield wipers, seat belts, mirrors, airbags or any other mandated safety systems required for passenger vehicles sold in the U.S.
Nuro's compact delivery vehicles are mainly designed to be used by retailers, restaurants and grocery stores for on-demand e-commerce deliveries. The vehicles are designed to operate on public roads just like other cars and trucks and have a maximum speed of 25 mph.
The Nuro vehicles, named the R1 and R2, are outfitted with lockable compartments to carry goods such as fresh groceries, pizza, meals, dry-cleaning, prescriptions, or similar items. Upon delivery, customers can use a smartphone app to unlock the R2's secure compartments to access their orders.
Nuro's second generation R2 is a bit larger and can carry more cargo, so its ideal for larger grocery develivers. The cargo space can also be temperature controlled to help keep food fresh while in transit.
Nuro designed the R2 from the ground up to handle the rigors of commercial delivery with a bigger battery that can last all day without needing a charge, the company says.
Nuro's compact delivery vehicles are fully-electric and autonomous and are engineered to carry cargo instead of passengers.
Although Nuro plans to deploy a fleet of driverless delivery bots, for now the pilot program with 7-Eleven in Mountain View will begin using autonomous Toyota Priuses with a human overseeing its operation. Nuro said its fully-autonomous R2 bots will be added at a later date.
Nuro became the first autonomous vehicle company to receive a deployment permit from the California DMV in December, 2020, paving the way for the launch of a commercial delivery service with 7-Eleven.
Nuro is one of Silicon Valley's most valuable startups. In March, Nuro announced it closed on a $500 million Series C financing round. Participating in that funding round was restaurant chain Chipotle, indicating that the company might be planning to use Nuro's autonomous vehicles for more food deliveries in the near future.
Last month, Nuro announced it raised another $600 million in new funding. It increased Nuro's valuation from $5 billion to $8.6 billion.
The latest funding round brought in Google's parent company Alphabet Inc. as a new investor. Nuro said it has signed a five-year strategic partnership with Google Cloud to support self-driving simulation and data management.
Google Cloud said it was also looking to help Nuro optimize the way it makes autonomous deliveries for retailers and other businesses, with the aim of transforming local commerce altogether.
The partnership with 7-Eleven brings Nuro another step closer to achieving that goal.
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