Uber Eats announced it has struck a 10-year deal with autonomous vehicle startup Nuro on Thursday to test driverless food deliveries in two cities in California and Texas—the latest push towards autonomous driving as more companies start to move away from traditional vehicles.
Uber Eats plans to deploy its fleet of autonomous vehicles in Mountain View, California, and Houston, Texas, this fall.
The announcement comes over a year after pizza chain Domino’s partnered with Nuro for “quick service” autonomous delivery vehicles, launching a pilot operation in Houston for customers who order online on certain days and in certain parts of the city, and four months after Uber launched another pilot with Motional and Serve Robotics for autonomous vehicles and sidewalk delivery machines in Los Angeles.
Autonomous electric vehicles have become increasingly popular in recent years as companies like Uber look to transition to all electric cars by 2030 while Lyft plans to launch driverless “robotaxis” as early as next year.
The Nuro vehicles are 20% smaller than a standard sedan, include a large mattress-shaped front external airbag, operate on city streets at a top speed of 45 mph and include space for two dozen grocery bags.
The federal Department of Transportation and National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration approved a regulatory exemption for Nuro’s R2 model in February 2020—the first autonomous vehicle to receive the approval. In January, the company unveiled its R3 model, which it plans to use in California and Texas.
Automaker Tesla has come under fire following reports of crashes and deaths since it released its self-driving feature in its vehicles in the U.S. in October 2020. One driver was charged with vehicular manslaughter in Michigan in January after running a red light and crashing into another vehicle, killing two people, while the car was in autopilot. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report released in June found Tesla’s autopilot led to 273 crashes over a 10-month period ending in May.
Uber Eats, Nuro launching autonomous food deliveries in Houston, San Francisco Bay Area (Houston Business Journal)