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Launching the first unmanned delivery service

Medium, 18 December 2018

Today, Nuro launched the first-ever unmanned delivery service for the general public. People in Scottsdale, Arizona can now have their groceries delivered by the R1, a self-driving, unmanned on-road vehicle. We are incredibly proud of our team and our partners for reaching this milestone together.

Eleven years ago, I was fortunate to be part of the DARPA Urban Grand Challenge. In the final competition, eleven teams launched autonomous cars into a mock urban environment. It was the first time self-driving vehicles interacted with neighborhood traffic in realistic, unscripted on-road scenarios. And we got goosebumps. My co-founder Jiajun and I were also fortunate to be part of Google’s self-driving car project in its early years. In 2015, the team at Google performed the first unmanned trip on public roads. Steve Mahan ‘drove’ a self-driving vehicle while being legally blind. And we watched in awe. Since then, the industry has taken further big steps towards bringing this technology to the world. We believe our launch today is one of them. For the first time ever — as far as we know — an unmanned service is available to the public. For us at Nuro, this represents the culmination of years of long days and team breakthroughs, sweat and (literal) tears.

We founded Nuro two years and four months ago to accelerate the benefits of robotics for everyday life. We wanted to tackle challenges that had an immediate impact on communities everywhere. As described in earlier posts, we realized that we could give back millions of hours of time to people if we built an inexpensive service that provided anything, anywhere, anytime. We started by partnering with Kroger — America’s largest grocery retailer — to create a grocery delivery service with self-driving vehicles. After launching this service in August with our fleet of self-driving Priuses, we’ve completed roughly one thousand deliveries, received best-in-class customer satisfaction ratings, and freed up many hours of our customers’ time.

In parallel, our technical teams have been preparing the R1 to join the pilot. We can’t wait for our customers to meet this special unmanned vehicle. Every team, from hardware to software, operations to product, worked together closely to design and build R1 from scratch. Truly joint development meant we could thoughtfully dive into everything from compartment ergonomics to vehicle shape to sensor design and placement. The constant goal: Build the best vehicle, and service, for goods transportation.

Being the ‘best’ vehicle also means being incredibly safe. The R1 features world-class self-driving software and sensing hardware, redundancy across every critical driving system, and a lighter and nimbler footprint than a standard car. In the initial phase of the development, we’ve also thoroughly trained our robot operators who monitor R1 and are able to take control at any time. Read more about how we incorporate safety into every step of the development process in Delivering Safety: Nuro’s Approach.

While this first unmanned service represents the culmination of many years of work, it also represents another beginning. For this may be the first, but it will be followed by many more: more vehicles, more cities, and more services. Together with others in the industry, we will usher in new ways to provide transportation, and more time, to everyone.

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