A select few grocery shoppers in Oklahoma City will soon have their perishables delivered via self-driving car.
Autonomous delivery vehicle startup Udelv today unveiled a partnership with Narnia Road and Esperanza Real Estate Investments to supply supermarkets with fleets of autonomous vans.
The first vehicle will be delivered in Q1 2019, with a 10-van deployment to follow by the end of next year. The vehicles will ferry food from a number of grocery stores, including Uptown Grocery, Buy For Less, Buy For Less Supermercado, and Smart Saver, to customers in “underserved markets.”
In the future, additional vans might service pharmacies and other local merchants, Udelv CEO and cofounder Daniel Laury said.
“The partnership between Udelv and Esperanza and the BFL Company of stores is a historic agreement and signals the start of ADVs making everyday life easier for Americans,” Laury told members of the media at an event in Oklahoma City this evening. “We’re proud to be working with a visionary company committed to helping us pioneer the future of delivery technology.”
Udelv’s vans will initially fulfill orders with safety drivers behind the wheel and a crew of remote operators ready to step in if necessary. The cars are capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, and they’ve made more than 700 deliveries in the San Francisco Bay Area since January, but the company’s taking a cautious approach. [Oklahoma doesn’t have a law governing autonomous vehicles.]
“Over the next several months, Udelv will work with Esperanza, local authorities, regulators, and more to master miles of roads in the Oklahoma City area to ensure our vehicles can provide safe, convenient, and affordable delivery services to local communities,” Laury said.
Udelv’s delivery vans are modified GEM eL XD electric trucks packing 8.7 horsepower motors and 20-kWh battery packs. They have an estimated range of 60 miles and a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour and can make about 40 deliveries before needing to recharge.
The company collaborated with Motivo Engineering, a mechanical and electrical system design firm based in Carson, California, to spec out the cargo hold, which can fit 700 pounds of items in 18 compartments of four sizes.
Customers gain access to orders through a smartphone app.
Udelv’s news follows hot on the heel’s of Kroger’s partnership with self-driving startup Nuro. The grocery chain charges a flat $5.95 delivery fee for same-day or next-day deliveries and began piloting autonomous deliveries in Scottsdale, Arizona in August.
Nuro and Udelv aren’t the only startups seeking to fulfill last-mile orders in every imaginable sector. San Francisco-based Dispatch is developing a short-range autonomous delivery robot designed to run on sidewalks, and earlier this year Ford partnered with Postmates to deliver packages to customers in Miami, Florida.