Takeaway Pizza company Domino’s and California robotics startup Nuro have launched an autonomous pizza-delivery service in Houston, Texas.  Under the pilot programme, Domino’s says “select customers” who make a prepaid delivery order from its store in the Woodland Heights neighborhood during certain dates and times can have their pizza brought to them by a Nuro R2 robot.

Customers will get text messages to track the vehicle, and a PIN to retrieve their pizza from its built-in storage boxes.

“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,” Dennis Maloney, Domino’s chief innovation officer, said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing how autonomous delivery can work along with Domino’s existing delivery experts to better support the customers’ needs.”

The R2 was the first driverless vehicle to receive regulatory approval from the US Department of Transportation in February 2020, giving it exemption from some federal safety requirements.

The vehicle is completely driverless, without space for a driver. Its small size means there is more space around pedestrians and other vehicles and the application on short delivery runs is considered to be more achievable from a technical and regulatory perspective than driverless vehicles carrying riders.

Founded by ex-Google self-driving car engineers, Nuro vehicles are already being used for grocery and pharmacy deliveries in Houston. Last year Nuro vehicles were used to transport medical supplies around two California stadiums converted into treatment facilities for patients with COVID-19.