Domino’s Pizza and Nuro, a Silicon Valley startup, said on Monday they will launch a robotic pizza delivery service in Houston this week as they look to fulfill expanding online orders during the pandemic.

With small, low-speed vehicles to carry packages rather than individuals, Nuro has been pulling in front of other autonomous vehicle startups in acquiring regulatory approvals. It won US clearance a year ago to begin unmanned delivery services.

Nuro recently got $500m including an equity investment from Woven Capital, the mobility investment arm of a Toyota subsidiary, which made its complete valuation more than $5bn, an individual acquainted with the matter said.

The delivery service will start at a Domino’s outlet in Houston prior to growing to serve clients in numerous different locations as a feature of a long-term partnership, said Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partner relations.

“It’s generally difficult for large companies to hire enough drivers to fill their delivery demand,” Leipold said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Leipold said Nuro, which has effectively collaborated with retailers Kroger, Walmart and CVS to deliver groceries and prescriptions, said its weekly deliveries had almost significantly increased in the initial three months of the pandemic.

Houston, the fourth-biggest US city, has one of the country’s highest road fatality rates. “Houston’s roadways create challenging scenarios for our technology to work with,” Leipold added.

Nuro and Domino’s had said in 2019 they expected to launch robot pizza delivery late that year. “Nuro and Domino’s have taken a measured approach to prioritize a smooth and safe deployment,” Leipold said.

Nuro, established by two previous Google engineers in 2016, recently raised $940m from the SoftBank Vision Fund.

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Topics #Domino's #Domino's Nuro #Domino's Pizza #pizza delivery #robotic pizza delivery service