New report shows economic, social, and environmental impacts of self-driving delivery services at scale.
When we started Nuro 4 years ago, we anticipated that self-driving delivery would give us back time, improve road safety, and even provide affordable access to fresh food for people living in food deserts. But there is another deeply important set of questions for society. How might our type of service, as it scales across the United States, impact jobs and the economy, the environment, and our daily lives?
We asked the transportation specialists at Steer to produce the first-ever independent economic impact study that specifically evaluated self-driving delivery services. Steer consulted experts, reviewed past reports, and researched the specific impacts that self-driving local delivery will have on everyday Americans.
What Steer Found
Steer projects that from 2025–2035, Americans could use AV delivery services instead of personal cars for much of their daily shopping and errands. This will:
How Self-Driving Delivery Helps Grow the Economy
Most Americans still shop the same way their parents and grandparents did: driving to the store. Last year, about 90% of all shopping was done in person by the customer. Self-driving delivery, however, has the potential to make fast, affordable home delivery widely available for essential goods like groceries or medicine that are rarely delivered today.
In addition to workers that build and maintain vehicles, delivery AV services will create new jobs that replace the unpaid personal labor we all do ourselves today when we run errands or shop for groceries. In our place will be new workers at retail stores in our communities who are trained to select our goods and load them into the delivery vehicle. We’ve already started to see this in our initial deployments in Arizona and Houston, where new workers were hired at our retail partners and in our depots. As self-driving makes convenient and affordable delivery available for more stores, the jobs and investments in our local economies will only continue to grow.
At the same time, each trip by a self-driving vehicle is replacing one or more that we take ourselves in our personal cars, SUVs, and trucks. In the case of Nuro’s R2, that means using a 100% battery-electric vehicle that is smaller, lighter, and designed from the ground up for safety, while we get to stay home and spend time with our families or on productive pursuits. And the more customers use the service, the more we “batch” deliveries — delivering a pizza on the way to drop off groceries around the corner — reducing the total number of miles driven in our neighborhoods.
Our Experience So Far
We believe the benefits of autonomy will first be realized in local commerce. Because no one rides inside delivery vehicles, the self-driving software can focus on protecting other road users, and does not need to make tradeoffs with occupant safety or comfort. An R2 vehicle could slam on the brakes when a ball rolls across the road without fear of causing whiplash, or operate more conservatively in the first place without concern for making a rider late to a meeting.
In fact, many of the first self-driving services that have already emerged are in delivery. Since we launched the first unmanned delivery service, our services have created several hundred new jobs and helped thousands of customers get what they need.
The COVID-19 pandemic in particular has expedited the public need for contactless delivery services. The scale is still small, but our early experience is promising.
Realizing This Potential
We at Nuro are still at the beginning of our journey. Creating a meaningful local delivery service over the years to come will require dedicated long term investments in communities and the workers who will join us to bring something new into society. Grocery store employees who will pick and pack fresh food being delivered into our neighborhoods, particularly those currently underserved. Mechanics and technicians who will assemble and maintain an entirely new fleet of small electric vehicles. Engineers who will invent lighter weight parts and components that make a vehicle safer on the roads. Software developers who constantly iterate and improve upon autonomous vehicle driving systems. Fleet managers, environmental health and safety specialists, industrial designers, city and community engagement professionals, transportation planners, and a resurgence of jobs across local retail businesses.
When it comes down to it, building the world’s largest system for delivering local products to your door is not about a race for autonomy. It’s about people — the millions of people it will take to change the way we do business, and the millions of us who can spend a little more time safely at home with our loved ones while the milk arrives.
Join our team here.