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Nuro and Domino's buddy up for autonomous pizza delivery in Houston

Unlike its work with Ford, this pilot features a real-deal self-driving vehicle.

This is Nuro's R1 delivery vehicle stocked with pizzas, but there's a new R2 model on the way as part of this pilot program.

Domino's is no stranger to the automotive industry. After building its own dedicated pizza-delivery vehicle in 2015, the company teamed up with Ford to see how consumers would react to delivery by "self-driving" vehicle. Now, it's ramped up its efforts even further by introducing a legitimate AV in a pilot program in Texas.

Domino's announced on Monday that it is teaming up with Nuro, a startup focused on autonomous deliveries, on a new pilot program in Houston, Texas. Customers who order online from Domino's website can opt-in for this pilot. Then, the vehicle will be delivered in one of Nuro's autonomous pod contraptions, and all the person at the receiving end has to do is input a PIN and retrieve their pizza from the storage area.

Right now, the only pictures Nuro provided are of its R1 delivery vehicle, which has been used in other pilot programs with other companies. In its release, Nuro said that the Domino's delivery tie-in will use a custom vehicle called R2, which should make its first appearance later this year. It's unclear just how different it will appear from the R1, which resembles a friendly little pod and lacks any sort of space for an actual human to pilot it.

Nuro has been on a tear with its autonomous delivery vehicles. Late last year, it announced that it would start delivering groceries from select Kroger stores in Arizona, which started with modified Priuses but eventually shifted to the R1. In March, the company announced that it would expand AV grocery delivery to Houston, also with Kroger.

This will be the first time Domino's uses a real-deal AV in its pilot delivery programs. The company had a tie-in with Ford, but the "self-driving car" was just smoke and mirrors, using a driver hidden behind blacked-out windows. That test wasn't for actual automation, though; instead, it was used to gauge consumer reactions to self-driving delivery vehicles. Not everyone will appreciate having to schlep down the driveway to grab a pizza from a car, after all. But then again, robots don't need to be tipped.

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