Uber partners with Nuro in push for autonomous food, grocery delivery

Uber Technologies said it has partnered with start-up Nuro to test food delivery via unmanned vehicles in some U.S. locations, expanding its tie-ups with companies focused on building self-driving machines.

Last-mile autonomous delivery has emerged as a focus area for companies as consumers have stuck to ordering meals online from the comfort of their homes even after lifting of COVID-19 lockdowns.

Tests with Nuro will begin this fall in Houston, Texas, and Mountain View, California, under a 10-year partnership and the company plans to expand the service to the greater Bay Area.

Uber, which aims to have only electric vehicles on its platform in the United States, Canada and Europe by 2030, has also been running tests for autonomous delivery with Serve Robotics that provides sidewalk machines for delivery, and self-driving start-up Motional.

Nuro, founded by former lead engineers from Google’s self-driving car project, already has partnerships with U.S. retailers such as Kroger (KR.N) and Walmart (WMT.N), as well as restaurant chains including Domino’s Pizza (DPZ.N) and Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG.N).

In the Uber Eats trial, customers will be able to choose driverless delivery as an option when ordering food and groceries.

While Uber’s ride-hailing business has recovered from pandemic lows as people resume travel, attend social events and return to offices, its food delivery unit faces risks from restaurant reopenings and rising costs of ordering in.