Grocer H-E-B Explores Autonomous Delivery With SF-Area Startup Udelv

Xconomy Texas — 

San Antonio — Pretty soon, the milkman may be making a comeback—at least, a robotic version.

San Antonio-based grocery chain H-E-B is beginning a pilot program later this year to test out using an autonomous vehicle for grocery delivery. H-E-B plans to test one self-driving vehicle in a single San Antonio neighborhood, Olmos Park. The company is using a vehicle made by Burlingame, CA-based Udelv, which makes autonomous vehicles designed specifically for making deliveries.

Udelv was founded in 2016. Its vehicles already make autonomous deliveries for multiple companies, ranging from Napa Auto Parts to Walmart (NYSE: WMT), according to its website. The startup has raised more than $14 million in funding, PitchBook says.

The trial is part of H-E-B’s effort to embrace technology, which the company hopes may reduce its costs, streamline its operations, and provide it other benefits, H-E-B said in a news release. The company already offers home grocery delivery, curbside picking at dozens of its stores, and online ordering. In February 2018, the food retailer acquired Austin-based startup Favor, an on-demand delivery service that competes with the likes of Postmates.

Initially, Udelv delivery vans used for the pilot will have a driver, H-E-B says. If H-E-B chooses to expand the trial, the vehicles deployed may eventually be entirely driverless. In the meantime, customers can sign up to receive deliveries from the autonomous vehicle during the trial. H-E-B didn’t say how long the pilot program will last.