With driverless grocery deliveries ramping up during the first quarter of 2020, Walmart is beginning a new autonomous delivery pilot in Houston with Nuro, the latest of several big-name partnerships for the California-based autonomous vehicle manufacturer.
In an interview with Automotive News, David Estrada of Nuro said the company chose Houston due to the diversity, quality and busyness of the city’s road network. “It’s a great place to develop the technology,” he said, “and then we want to show we can make this an efficient service that can work for retailers.”
Tom Ward, SVP, digital operations for Walmart U.S., said the company is committed to delivering groceries, with an online grocery footprint expanding to nearly 3,100 pickup locations with deliveries coming from more than 1,600 stores.
“We’re already bringing the best of Walmart to our customers through Grocery Pickup and Delivery,” Ward said in a blog post. “By continuing to test autonomous vehicle capabilities, we’re better able to understand the path self-driving technology can take us down the road.”
Via previous partnerships, Nuro has already worked with Domino’s to deliver pizzas in the Houston market and Kroger for grocery deliveries resulting from a partnership signed in 2018.
Nuro founders Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu have dedicated their careers to robotics and machine learning, mostly recently as engineers from Google and Waymo’s self-driving car project. The pair started Nuro in 2017, and the company now boasts employees from Apple, Uber, Tesla and GM.