Domino’s and Nuro are kicking off a robotic pizza delivery pilot in Houston this week, giving customers there the option to have orders brought to them by the Silicon Valley autonomous driving tech developer’s small vehicles that look a bit like toasters on wheels.
The program involves just one Domino’s shop, located in Houston’s Woodland Heights neighborhood, and is open to a limited number of customers who make prepaid orders online, the companies said. People opting to get a delivery via a Nuro R2 robotic vehicle will receive text updates on the order and a unique code number to unlock and retrieve their pizza from a storage compartment when it arrives.
“There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space,” said Dennis Maloney, Domino’s senior vice president and chief innovation officer. “This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations.”
Nuro’s pizza delivery partnership with Domino’s follows the Mount View, California-based company’s previous pilot projects with Walmart, Kroger and CVS. Founded by two former members of Google’s self-driving car project, Nuro is also among the best-funded autonomous tech developers, securing $500 million in a funding round announced last month on top of a $940 million round led by Softbank and Greylock Management.
Unlike competing self-driving tech programs at Alphabet’s Waymo and GM-backed Cruise, Nuro focuses solely on deliveries and logistics, rather than robotaxis. Its electric R2 vehicle, designed to haul packages, groceries and food orders, is about half the size of a conventional car and travels at relatively low speed. It was the first driverless vehicle to receive U.S. approval to operate on public streets without conventional driving controls, such as a steering wheel and brake and accelerator pedals.
“We’re excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino’s customers in Houston,” said Dave Ferguson, Nuro cofounder and president. “We can’t wait to see what they think.”
Domino’s claims to be the largest pizza company in the world by retail sales and has more than 17,600 stores globally.