Uber is doubling down on efforts to use autonomous vehicles for its delivery service.
The company announced today a 10-year partnership with Nuro, an autonomous electric vehicle maker. Uber Eats and Nuro will launch the delivery offering this fall in Mountain View, California, and Houston, Texas, with plans to later expand its service to the greater Bay Area.
Uber has been turning to partnerships to cement its presence in the autonomous last-mile delivery space. The company is testing autonomous vehicle delivery in Santa Monica through a deal with Motional. Uber spin-off Serve Robotics, which makes sidewalk delivery robots, is also working with Uber Eats on a Los Angeles pilot.
An Uber spokesperson tells Fast Company that it will continue to work with multiple third-party autonomous delivery companies rather than contract with just one. “This third-party approach allows us to scale Uber’s delivery network, while working with leaders in the autonomous space,” the spokesperson says.
Founded in 2016 by two former Waymo workers, Nuro’s autonomous vehicles aren’t the average car found on the road. The company built the bots specifically to carry food and other goods, and they don’t have space for humans onboard (or a steering wheel, at that). The small vehicles still travel on public roads, though, so remote Nuro operators can patch into the vehicle and assume control if needed.
Food delivery companies have long had an eye on using autonomous vehicles and bots for last-mile delivery. DoorDash, for example, in 2021 revealed DoorDash Labs, its robotics and automation arm that was operating in stealth for three years. Grubhub, owned by Just Eat Takeaway, in June also announced a partnership with self-driving robotics startup Cartken to deliver goods on college campuses.