Customers in Los Angeles can receive orders via self-driving robot in around 15 minutes.
IRVING, Texas — 7-Eleven Inc. fans in Los Angeles no longer have to visit a brick-and-mortar store to purchase a Slurpee or a Big Bite hot dog. Instead, they can place an order and have it delivered by a self-driving robot as part of a pilot test.
The convenience store retailer has partnered with food technology startup company Serve Robotics, which is backed by Uber. 7-Eleven's venture arm, 7-Ventures, took part in Serve's $13 million seed funding round, according to a Business Insider report.
Orders for robot deliveries can only be made through the retailer's 7NOW delivery app. When customers make a qualifying order, the app alerts them that 7-Eleven and Serve are pilot robot delivery in the area and that their order may be delivered by a self-driving robot. Customers are expected to meet the robot outside and use a code to retrieve their orders from the unit.
The fee for a robot delivery is $2.99, with the driver tip automatically crossed out. The fee for a deliver via human driver is $2.99 with a recommended $3 tip.
Serve Robotics confirmed that the test has been going on for several weeks. The company plans to grow its fleet nationally through partnerships with 7-Eleven and other brands.
Serve robots can carry approximately 50 pounds. Units are equipped with cupholders to allow customers to order a variety of non-alcoholic beverages. Powered by artificial intelligence, the robots are programmed to slow down on rough terrain to ensure spill-free delivery.
Each robot has a nickname, like Snack-E and Nomsku.
"You never forget the first time you get your food from a robot. It is one of those defining moments in life like your first kiss," Serve Robotics CEO Ali Kashani told the news outlet.
Serve Robotics launched in 2017 as a division of Postmates and began testing autonomous delivery the following year. The robots are designed for short-distance deliveries, ranging from one to three miles, and can typically complete deliveries in around 15 minutes.
Other retailers that have tested Serve's robots include Walmart and Pizza Hut. Partnerships with large brands is part of Serve Robotics' growth strategy.
"Big, established players help give us the demand," said Chief Revenue Officer Prahar Shah. "They seed the market for us."
Headquartered in Irving, 7-Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 77,000 stores in 15 countries and regions with the 7-Eleven trademark represented on more than 83,000 stores.