Nuro and 7-Eleven to pilot autonomous delivery service in California

Convenience store giant 7-Eleven is pairing up with Nuro to pilot a commercial delivery service using autonomous vehicles in the Silicon Valley enclave of Mountain View, California.

The service, which customers can access beginning December 1 through 7-Eleven’s 7NOW delivery app, will initially use Nuro’s self-driving Priuses. Eventually, the service will use Nuro’s R2 delivery vehicles, which were custom built to delivery only packages — not people.

7-Eleven has experimented with autonomous delivery in the past. In 2016, the company tested autonomous delivery in Reno, Nevada with drone company Flirtey. This month, the operator of 7-Eleven stores in Korea, began testing the use of sidewalk delivery robots developed by local startup Neubility in the southern district of Seoul.

The partnership with Nuro is designed as a commercial service, not a research and development project. However, a company spokesperson still described this as a pilot. This will be a commercial enterprise, but it will be a limited one, at least at first.

Nuro has been navigating the regulatory and technical roadmap to launch commercial operations, like so many others, for years. Nuro had signaled in December 2020 that it planned to start commercial delivery operations early this year after receiving the final necessary permit needed to operate commercial driverless services on public roads in California. It seems it was delayed and is now kicking off. Nuro was the first company to clear this regulatory hurdle after receiving a permit from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

Nuro didn’t name the intended commercial partner or city at the time. It makes sense that Nuro is choosing its home turf of Mountain View as its initial launch point.

Nuro has launched numerous other pilots outside of California, including with Kroger and FedEx.

Nuro doesn’t have a specific timeline for when it will expand beyond Mountain View, or even the initial 7-Eleven store it is launching with. There are several stores in the town, but for now, customers will only be able to get their Slurpees and snacks delivered from the 7-Eleven located at 1905 Latham St., Mountain View. The intent is to expand to more zip codes in the future, a Nuro spokesperson said in a email to TechCrunch.

Nuro didn’t share when it would switch to its R2 bot either, but that is the eventual goal. A spokesperson said Nuro and 7-Eleven will make the joint decision to introduce R2 into the delivery fleet as soon as possible.

For now, customers will be able to order their drinks and snacks via the 7NOW app and have it delivered in Mountain View by a Nuro autonomous vehicle between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. PT at no additional charge. The app will send updates as the order is processed, similar to how other delivery apps work today. The companies said the orders will arrive in about 30 minutes. Age-restricted items such as alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets will not be available via autonomous vehicle delivery.

The partnership just a few weeks since Nuro announced it had raised $600 million in a fundraising round led by new investor Tiger Global Management. The company said the capital would be used to ramp up commercial operations.