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Walmart is Launching an Autonomous Grocery Delivery Pilot with Startup Nuro

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【Summary】The world's biggest retailer Walmart is experimenting with self-driving technology. The company announced a new pilot with Silicon Valley-based delivery company Nuro to deliver online orders using small autonomous delivery vehicles.

FutureCar Staff    Dec 10, 2019 4:25 PM PT
Walmart is Launching an Autonomous Grocery Delivery Pilot with Startup Nuro

Major U.S. brick and mortar retailers are exploring new ways to improve their services to compete with online retailers, including offering same-day delivery or having an online orders packed and delivered curbside right to the customer's vehicle.

All of these services are designed to improve the customer experience in the age of Amazon, which led U.S. retailer Walmart, the world's biggest retailer, to experiment with self-driving technology. 

The company announced a new pilot with Silicon Valley-based delivery company Nuru to deliver Walmart's online orders using small autonomous delivery vehicles. The pilot is being tested at a Houston, Texas Walmart store.

Walmart said that Nuro's goal of using robotics to improve lives runs mirrors its own mission of helping customers live better. Walmart aims to develop and refine ways to offer the best end-to-end customer experience in what is becoming a highly competitive market. 

Now that billions of goods are routinely purchased on Amazon, brick and mortar retailers including Walmart and Target are expanding their offerings to remain competitive. Throughout the entire retail industry, companies are investing billions of dollars in autonomous delivery technology and other tech to make it easier and more convenient for customers to shop. 

The multi-purpose autonomous vehicles developed by Nuro are designed to carry a variety of goods, including groceries, parcel packages, or even dry-cleaning. The vehicle have lockable compartments to secure customer orders and they vehicle are capable of driving autonomously at speeds under 25 mph.

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Nuro's compact delivery vehicles are fully-electric and autonomous and are engineered to carry cargo instead of passengers.

Nuro was founded in 2016. The company's team includes experts in robotics, AI and autonomous vehicles. Many of Nuro's employees previously worked on autonomous driving projects at top companies such as Google, Apple, Uber and Tesla.

The goal for Walmart is to save customers' time with its expanding Grocery Pickup and Delivery service and learn more about how customers might use the service. 

As of 2019, Walmart has grown its online grocery delivery service to over 3,100 pickup locations with deliveries coming from more than 1,600 stores. In order to support its massive push towards online grocery deliveries, Walmart's team includes over 50,000 personal shoppers.

"Our unparalleled size and scale have allowed us to steer grocery delivery to the front doors of millions of families – and design a roadmap for the future of the industry. Along the way, we've been test-driving a number of different options for getting groceries from our stores to our customers' front doors through self-driving technology. We believe this technology is a natural extension of our Grocery Pickup and Delivery service and our goal of making every day a little easier for customers." Walmart released in a statement.

Walmart said that by testing autonomous vehicle capabilities, its better able to understand self-driving technology can be used for its future business offerings.

Earlier this year, Nuro announced a separate partnership with pizza chain Domino's and grocery store chain Kruger to deliver orders using the same autonomous vehicles. The two pilots are also in Houston.

In February 2019, Nuro announced that it has raised $940 million in its latest round of financing from SoftBank's Vision Fund. To date, Nuro has raised more than $1 billion from partners including SoftBank, as well as Silicon Valley venture capital firm Greylock Partners and China's Gaorong Capital.

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