Picture: Nuro

Nuro has just entered a strategic long-term partnership with Uber to use its micro-vans to transport food orders, groceries and other goods to customers in Silicon Valley and Houston using the Uber Eats service starting this year.  

People using the Uber Eats app in Houston and Mountain View, California (where Nuro is based) will be able to order deliveries using the new autonomous service this fall, with plans to expand the program to other parts of the San Francisco Bay Area in the months ahead. The vehicles alert people when they arrive, at which point the customer inputs a code to open the compartment containing their order. 

Nuro has not specified how many vehicles will be deployed in the program. The combination of its technology and Uber’s scale means they are able to expand food delivery options from the most popular restaurants all the way to nationwide chains. 

Created by two of the original members of Google’s self-driving car project in 2016, Nuro’s focus is on relatively low-speed, last-mile delivery services in urban and suburban areas, rather than robotaxis or autonomous semi-trucks. The company has also been a prodigious fundraiser, hauling in more than $2 billion to build up operations. 

Its new Nuro autonomous vehicles, loaded with laser lidar sensors, cameras and radar and able to travel up to 45 miles per hour, are being built at the company’s new assembly facility near Las Vegas, with batteries and key components being supplied by battery and electric-vehicle maker BYD. 

They lack steering wheels, accelerator and brake pedals and other conventional controls and have received approval from California and the U.S. Transportation Department to operate on public roads. 

Nuro has operated numerous pilot delivery projects with companies and services including FedEx, Walmart, CVS, Kroger and Domino’s Pizza in Texas, Arizona and California. 

 It has the potential to work with vastly more merchants as a result of the new alliance, as there are more than 825,000 in the 11,000 cities worldwide on the Uber Eats platform.