The Fuse

This Week In AVs: Nuro and CVS Tie Up to Deliver Medicine; Argo and VW Complete $2.6 Billion Deal; and More

by Alex Adams | @alexjhadams | June 04, 2020

Nuro Ties Up With CVS For Medicine Deliveries
Nuro has announced that it will begin medicine deliveries with CVS in Houston, using its fleet of R2X delivery bots. In the program’s early phase, deliveries will be limited to one CVS in the city, and will begin with Nuro’s self-driving Toyota Prius fleet before eventually using the bots instead. If this pilot project is successful, the partnership will expand to other CVS pharmacies in the city. The program is Nuro’s second in the city, having launched a grocery delivery trial with Kroger last year.

The medicine delivery project represents a diversification of Nuro’s delivery operations as part of the growing trend of contactless deliveries—a particular concern for those with illnesses that would prefer not to risk visiting their pharmacy in person. CVS VP of store operations Ryan Rumbarger said the company has seen an increased demand for deliveries in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “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,” he said.

Argo Closes $2.6 Billion Deal With VW
Self-driving startup Argo AI, which has worked closely with Ford on its AV ambitions since it invested $1 billion in the Pittsburgh-based company in 2017, has completed a $2.6 billion tie-up with Volkswagen. The deal, which sees the German automaker invest $1 billion and folding its $1.6 billion Autonomous Intelligent Driving unit into Argo, is part of a broader alliance between VW and Ford to jointly develop autonomous and electric vehicles. The move has been welcomed by Ford, with Ford Autonomous Vehicles CEO and Mobility VP John Lawler recently stating, “In my previous role as vice president of Ford corporate strategy, I can tell you firsthand the moment our teams started talking, all three parties could see the value of working together… With Volkswagen’s investment in Argo AI, we will now share the cost of developing Argo AI’s technology.”

AV Technology Maturing In Agricultural Sector
A recent Bloomberg article examined how self-driving farm machinery, and agricultural automation in general, is helping farmers worldwide improve efficiencies and preserve soil quality. A team of researchers at Harper Adams agricultural college in the United Kingdom has gained funding from the UK government and others to continue its research into self-driving tractors, drones to collect crop samples, and other technologies that reduce the need for humans to go into the field.

Although the team feel that entirely driverless tractors might be difficult to commercialize, given major manufacturers’ reluctance to cannibalize their own market, demand is starting to emerge. Small Robot Co., a British startup, has raised more than £3 million worth of crowdfunding for a range of robots it says will be able to map and zap weeds. At the most recent Agritechnica, a trade show held near Hanover, Germany, John Deere showed off a concept electric cabless tractor, though it had to be plugged in. Ultimately, automating some of the more tedious tasks could reduce stress for farmers and allow them to focus on more productive aspects of their business, instead of spending their time on a tractor.