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Nuro's self driving robots will deliver meds to Texas CVS users


Nuro, an autonomous vehicle startup founded by two ex-Google engineers, will use its small fleet of road-legal delivery robots to transport pharmaceutical products to CVS customers in Houston , Texas, the companies announced Thursday.

Deliveries will commence in June and will come to CVS customers in Houston at no extra charge. To begin with, Nuro will use its Toyota Priuses fleet equipped with self-driving technology to make the deliveries and will later switch to its purpose-built driverless R2 vehicles. As part of its pilot program , the company will only make deliveries from one CVS pharmacy before it branches out to serve other stores.

In a statement, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, CVS VP of store operations Ryan Rumbarger said the company has seen increased demand for delivers. "We want to give our customers more choice as to how they can quickly access the medicines they need when visiting one of our pharmacy locations isn't convenient for them," Rumbarger said.

Customers in the service area who place prescription orders via or the CVS app may select the autonomous delivery option and add other items to their order. They will also have to confirm their identity to unlock their delivery once Nuro's autonomous vehicle arrives at their home on the curbside.

This represents a shift in the typical operations of Nuro which focus on food supply and grocery in Arizona and Texas. Besides a small number of R2 vehicles , the company also delivers with two safety drivers in each, using its retrofitted Toyota Priuses. But because of social distancing rules, the company uses only one safety driver per vehicle for its delivery routes in Arizona and Texas, and its vehicle is mostly operated by hand. Nuro said last month it would start using its R2 vehicles to transport medical supplies around two stadiums in California that have been converted into treatment facilities for people with COVID-19.

The company has the distinction of being the first autonomous vehicle operator to receive a federal exemption without traditional controls such as steering wheels or sideview mirrors to mass-produce driverless vehicles. Nuro has also recently been approved to test its driverless delivery robots on California's public roads, becoming only the second company to receive such a permit.

The pandemic has made it an extremely precarious time for self-driving car companies , particularly those who have been unable to secure sufficient funding to sustain their operations through extended shutdowns. Nuro, which last year received nearly $ 1 billion from Japanese firm SoftBank, is seen as one of the better-capitalized enterprises.

The pandemic also forces some autonomous vehicle companies to reconsider their robotaxi aspirations and think about deliveries pivoting. Nuro, which has always been focused exclusively on deliveries, could be positioned to benefit from those circumstances in a unique way.

Article Edited by | John Heine |

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