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Robots Making Inroads in Retail Delivery

Kroger, 7-Eleven and others giving such devices a go.

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iStock, Vanit Janthra iStock, Vanit Janthra

The home page of Serve Robotics’ website poses an intriguing question: “Why deliver 2-pound burritos in 2-ton cars?” That company, along with several others, say they are solving retailers’ “final mile” delivery dilemma with the robots they build, reports Retail Brew.

That story looks at the rollout of delivery robots by two companies: Serve and Nuro. While those companies’ deployments “have been on a smaller, regional scale thus far, the companies are continuing to scale with new partners like 7-Eleven and Uber Eats, and hoping to break through this year,” RB reports.

Serve’s autonomous four-wheeled sidewalk robots, with eye-like sensors, can carry up to 50 pounds of cargo. The company says it could eliminate over 1 billion car miles and more than 370,000 tons of CO2 annually.

A partnership announced last month with 7-Eleven, which participated in Serve’s 2021 funding round through its 7-Ventures, is a step toward that goal. Serve is providing the c-store delivery-as-a-service in Los Angeles.

Nuro, meantime, offers autonomous vehicles that run on the streets. Its sensor- and camera-equipped vehicles are about 20 percent smaller than a typical car, can carry 500 pounds and are making autonomous deliveries for companies like Kroger, FedEx, Domino’s and 7-Eleven. Last September, Nuro struck a 10-year partnership with Uber.

Despite their promise, such startups have not been immune to today’s turbulent economy. Sidewalk robot maker Starship laid off 11 percent of staff and closed select locations in June, while Nuro laid off 20 percent of its workforce in November, RB reports.

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