In a major milestone for autonomous vehicle technology, the Mountain View-based company Nuro launched a new commercial delivery service Wednesday that uses self-driving cars to ferry food and other goods right to peoples' doorstep.
Nuro announced that it is partnering up with 7-Eleven and giving customers the opportunity to order online and pick 'autonomous delivery,' in which a self-driving Prius will arrive at the store, pick up the order and drop it off at the selected address. It marks the first autonomous commercial delivery service in California.
The scope of the partnership is fairly limited, at least for now, and it's got a narrow focus specifically on Mountain View. Customers have the autonomous delivery option specifically for the 7-Eleven at 1905 Latham Street. Ordering can be done on 7-Eleven's delivery app, 7NOW, and autonomous deliveries will be available from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Jiajun Zhu, Nuro's CEO and co-founder, said in a statement that residents across the state have never been able to experience this kind of delivery service before, and that it made sense to launch it here in Mountain View.
"We've always wanted to bring Nuro's autonomous delivery to our local community and to our neighbors," Zhu said. "We couldn't be more excited to do this with an iconic neighborhood store like 7-Eleven in our hometown."
Nuro has been ahead of the curve when it comes to getting regulatory approval for self-driving technology, receiving permits last year to operate its autonomous vehicles for commercial uses. The permit still constrains the company's use of self-driving vehicles to the Peninsula, stretching from Sunnyvale to Atherton.
For the initial launch, someone will still be in the car monitoring the delivery. The Nuro Priuses making 7-Eleven deliveries will have an autonomous vehicle operator to "ensure an optimal delivery service," according to the company. Later on, the company will switch over to its bite-sized, fully autonomous vehicle model called "R2," to make completely unmanned deliveries.
Most products sold at 7-Eleven will be available through autonomous delivery, including things like chips, pizza, beverages and household items. Age-restricted items like liquor, tobacco and lottery tickets will not be available.
Mountain View Mayor Ellen Kamei said in a statement Wednesday that she "welcomes" the latest innovation being launched in the city, noting that the company is part of the community and focused on debuting its new tech on a local level.
"Not only are they headquartered in our city but Nuro is now bringing their new collaboration with 7-Eleven to our residents," Kamei said. "Today, anyone in Mountain View can experience what it means to have the convenience store brought to them through autonomous vehicles."
Like previous milestones, Nuro partners with retail stores to test-drive its new technology. In 2018, the company launched a partnership with Kroger to do its first autonomous deliveries in Scottsdale, Arizona. The company later expanded to operate in Houston, and forged a partnership with Domino's Pizza.