A Texas-based grocery retailer is launching a pilot program to test self-driving, autonomous grocery deliveries in San Antonio. The retailer, H-E-B, is taking baby steps to get started, using a single driverless van developed by Udelv, a California-based company that develops autonomous delivery vehicles, which it calls ADVs.
Once the driverless van gets rolling, it will have multiple climate-controlled compartments allowing it to ferry multiple orders at a time, including those with fresh, frozen and dry goods. With more than 116,000 employees, H-E-B is the largest privately held employer in the Lone Star State. Within its release on autonomous deliveries, the company noted that people would continue to play a major role in its overall business going forward.
“Our success starts with our people, who provide exceptional hospitality and drive us to open more engaging stores that offer a world-class shopping experience,” said H-E-B President Craig Boyan. “We’re committed to winning through people and hiring more people, and we’re adding necessary skills to become both a better tech company and even stronger brick-and-mortar retailer.”
According to Udelv, the vehicle has a top speed of 60 mph, a payload capacity in excess of 800 pounds and a range of more than 400 square miles, which it claims will enable 32 deliveries per route.
Udelv CEO Daniel Laury said the company is working to scale its so-called Autodeliv system “to make deliveries faster and saver.” During the first phase of the pilot, the ADV will have a driver. If the initiative is expanded, it will implement a multi-phased roll out to give the technology time to learn the safest, most efficient routes, which will eventually lead to the ADV becoming fully driverless.
For the pilot, select customers can sign up to receive autonomous deliveries during the test period. It’s part of H-E-B’s efforts to bring more technology into its business, including existing offers like curbside pickup and home delivery, which will be rolling at more than 200 of its locations by the end of the year.