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Robotic Pizza delivery pilot in Houston

Domino’s and Nuro are kicking off a robotic pizza delivery pilot in Houston

Domino’s and Nuro are kicking off a robotic pizza delivery pilot in Houston this week, giving customers there the option to have orders brought to them by the Silicon Valley autonomous driving tech developer’s small vehicles that look a bit like toasters on wheels.

The program involves just one Domino’s shop, located in Houston’s Woodland Heights neighborhood, and is open to a limited number of customers who make prepaid orders online, the companies said. People opting to get a delivery via a Nuro R2 robotic vehicle will receive text updates on the order and a unique code number to unlock and retrieve their pizza from a storage compartment when it arrives. 

“There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space,” said Dennis Maloney, Domino’s senior vice president and chief innovation officer. “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.”

Nuro’s pizza delivery partnership with Domino’s follows the Mountain View, California-based company’s previous pilot projects with Walmart, Kroger and CVS. Founded by two former members of Google’s self-driving car project, Nuro is also among the best-funded autonomous tech developers, securing $500 million in a funding round announced last month on top of a $940 million round led by Softbank and Greylock Management. 

Unlike competing self-driving tech programs at Alphabet’s Waymo and GM-backed Cruise, Nuro focuses solely on deliveries and logistics, rather than robotaxis. Its electric R2 vehicle, designed to haul packages, groceries and food orders, is about half the size of a conventional car and travels at relatively low speed. It was the first driverless vehicle to receive U.S. approval to operate on public streets without conventional driving controls, such as a steering wheel and brake and accelerator pedals.

“We’re excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino’s customers in Houston,” said Dave Ferguson, Nuro cofounder and president. “We can’t wait to see what they think.”

Domino’s claims to be the largest pizza company in the world by retail sales and has more than 17,600 stores globally.

Nuro’s R2 was the first driverless vehicle to receive regulatory approval from the US Department of Transportation last February, giving it a special exemption from federal safety requirements. Founded in 2018 by two former Google engineers, Nuro partnered with Domino’s in 2019 for the pizza delivery pilot in Houston, which is finally rolling out now.

Nuro Vehicles in other businesses

Nuro vehicles are already being used for grocery deliveries and for deliveries from CVS Pharmacy stores in Houston. Last April, Nuro said it would use its vehicles to transport medical supplies around two California stadiums that were converted into treatment facilities for patients with COVID-19.

“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.”

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