H-E-B has joined the ranks of Walmart, Kroger, AutoZone, Walgreens, Target and Lowe’s as the latest major retailer to pilot autonomous delivery. The Texas-based grocer has partnered with self-driving vehicle developer Udelv to test a grocery delivery service in a San Antonio suburb in late 2019.
As part of the pilot, H-E-B will source one autonomous delivery vehicle known as “Newton” to serve customers near its Olmos Park supermarket. Shoppers at the Olmos Park store can sign up to receive deliveries from the Udelv vehicle during the test period.
Newton can hold up to 32 customer orders of varying sizes and travel at up to 60 mph with an operating range of about 400 square miles, compared with 18 orders, a top speed of 25 mph and a range of approximately 60 miles in the previous version. Walmart and Farmstead are both piloting delivery services with Udelv technology.
A driver will accompany the vehicle to evaluate the first phase of the performance. H-E-B will roll out the technology in phases to give it time to learn the safest, most efficient routes, eventually leading to the vehicle becoming completely driverless.
“At H-E-B, we continue to evaluate and utilize innovative technologies in all parts of our business,” said Paul Tepfenhart, Senior VP of Omnichannel and Emerging Technologies at H-E-B and its Central Market division in a statement. “As a digital retail leader in Texas, we will continue to grow our partner population as well as technology presence to complement our store operations, enabling customers to choose how they shop, pay for and receive products.”
In February 2018, H-E-B made a big grocery delivery splash when it acquired Favor Delivery, which served 50 cities in Texas. The grocer has since continued to grow its delivery capabilities, with plans to expand its H-E-B Curbside and H-E-B Home Delivery online grocery services to more than 200 locations by the end of 2019. The retailer also plans to expand H-E-B Go, a mobile solution that enables customers to scan and pay for items with their smartphones.
Late last month, H-E-B opened its Eastside Tech Hub innovation center in East Austin, Texas. The chain has approximately 340 stores in Texas and nearly 60 stores in Mexico.