Nuro teams with CVS for self-driving medicine delivery

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Someday soon, the R2 will deliver Rx.

Self-driving delivery company Nuro said Thursday it will start a pilot project to test autonomous prescription deliveries in the Houston area. Working with CVS Pharmacy, the company will use its Toyota Prius test vehicles — and later its R2 vehicle prototypes — to make deliveries.

Executives from the two companies said the pilot program will operate from a single store, reaching customers across three ZIP codes.

The partnership comes at a time when consumers are showing increased interest in delivery services ranging from goods to groceries. Nuro has existing partnerships with Walmart and Kroger.

Expanding into health care is perhaps a natural next step for Nuro, amid a pandemic that might leave many leery of waiting in lines in a brick-and-mortar pharmacy with others waiting to pick up medicine.

“We are seeing an increased demand for prescription delivery,” Ryan Rumbarger, senior vice president of store operations for CVS, said in a statement. “We want to give our customers more choice in how they can quickly access the medications they need when it’s not convenient for them to visit one of our pharmacy locations.”

CVS has already explored using next-generation transportation technology for deliveries. In November 2019, the company teamed with UPS Flight Forward, a subsidiary of United Parcel Service Inc., to use drones to make a delivery in Cary, N.C. This month, the two companies started a pilot project serving residents in The Villages retirement community in central Florida.

On surface streets, Nuro has been at the forefront of efforts to usher in an era of autonomous deliveries. In February, the U.S. Department of Transportation granted the Mountain View, Calif., company an exemption from certain federal motor vehicle safety standards that assume there’s a human being driving a vehicle on public roads.

It was the first such exemption granted by the federal government, and it allows Nuro to deploy as many as 5,000 of its R2 vehicles over the next two years.

CVS customers in the Houston area will get the option of an autonomous delivery when they are placing orders via the company’s website or app. They can add non-prescription items to their orders.

The vehicles don’t quite deliver to the doorstep, but customers can meet the AVs at the curb, where they’ll need to confirm their identity on a touchpad before accessing their medicine. Deliveries in the pilot project will be free of charge for customers.

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Saurabh Shukla

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