While seven in 10 Americans remain wary of self-driving cars, they will be soon faced with a new driverless vehicle species: the unmanned delivery robot.
Following a trial in Scottsdale, Arizona, Nuro’s driverless grocery delivery vehicles are now coming to Houston, Texas. Two Kroger markets in Houston will be included in the autonomous delivery program that uses Nuro’s R1 driverless pod.
The service, which is a collaboration between America’s largest grocery retailer Kroger and robotics company Nuro, allows customers to place orders online and have their groceries delivered at their homes by R1 unmanned vehicles. The service will be offered at stores in South Post Oak Road and Buffalo Speedway and will reach customers residing in four local zip codes. Buyers can place orders for same-day or next-day delivery from Kroger’s website or mobile app for a $5.95 fee.
At the start of the program, though, Nuro will use self-driving Toyota Prius vehicles instead of its R1 pods, just like it did in Arizona. That’s because Nuro has built only six R1 pods so far, all of which are in use in Scottsdale.
“Initially, we are going to start delivering with our self-driving Prius vehicles, so these are passenger vehicles just like regular Priuses that we’ve added sensing and computing to so they can drive themselves. There will still be safety drivers in them,” Nuro co-founder and president Dave Ferguson told ABC13.
Later this year, the unmanned R1 vehicles will be introduced. In Scottsdale, it took about four months from the moment the trial program began with Prius vehicles until the R1s started deliveries in December 2018.
The self-driving pod is just over 6 feet (1,830 mm) high and about half the width of a sedan. Weighing in at 1,500 lbs (680 kg), it’s designed to carry only cargo, with enough space for 12 grocery bags. Founded by two ex-Google self-driving engineers, Nuro recently received a $1 billion cash infusion from Japanese tech company SoftBank.