ALEXANDRIA, Va.—7-Eleven is testing self-driving robots to deliver orders in Los Angeles through a partnership with Serve Robotics, reports Business Insider. The tests have been happening for weeks, according to Serve.
7-Eleven’s venture arm, 7-Ventures, was one of several investors in Serve Robotics’ $13 million seed funding round. Serve said it plans to expand its robot fleet nationally this year through partnerships with brands like 7-Eleven.
"Our vision at 7-Eleven is to be the first choice for convenience—anytime, anywhere. We are redefining convenience by delivering innovative shopping solutions to our customers," said Raghu Mahadevan, 7-Eleven senior vice president and chief digital officer, in a press release announcing the seed funding. "This collaboration will allow us to continue our 94-year legacy of innovation and expand our last mile delivery capabilities to make 7NOW more affordable, sustainable and accessible for everyone."
Serve robots are capable of carrying up to 50 pounds and include cup holders. The robots are programmed to slow down when maneuvering over rough ground to ensure the delivery of spill-free beverages. Customers can grab their order from inside the robot after entering a code.
"You never forget the first time you get your food from a robot," Serve Robotics CEO Ali Kashani told Insider.
The robots are designed to deliver short distances, ranging from one to three miles, and most Serve robots can make their deliveries in 15 minutes.
Insider tried the service. “Want to meet a robot? You qualify,” the 7NOW app asked Insider. “7-Eleven and Serve are piloting robot delivery in your area. Your order may be delivered by a self-driving robot. Meet robot outside.”
Insider reports the fee for robot delivery was $2.99, and the driver tip was automatically crossed out. By comparison, the fee for a delivery with a driver is $2.99 with a recommended $3 tip.
In 2021, 7-Eleven launched autonomous delivery in Mountain View, California, via robotics company Nuro.
Last month, Uber Eats began using a fleet of automated, self-driving robots to deliver food orders in Miami. The company partnered with Cartken, a leading robotics company, for the service.
Grubhub recently partnered with two sidewalk robotic companies for food delivery on college campuses. Grubhub partnered with Starship Technologies to provide robot deliveries at the University of Kentucky; the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Wayne State University; Southern Methodist University; and Fairfield University. Grubhub also partnered with Kiwibot for robot deliveries at the University of North Dakota and will roll out the service to additional schools next semester.
Automation is becoming a way for businesses to navigate the labor shortage and increase production. Love’s Travel Stops opened the Jamba by Blendid autonomous robotic kiosk at two California locations in 2022. The self-operating kiosk allows customers to customize their smoothie orders by adjusting ingredient quantities or adding boosts directly through the Blendid app. They can order on-site or schedule a preferred pickup time in advance via the mobile app.
More insights on last-mile solutions were captured in the NACS Magazine feature “Robots Deliver.” NACS also explored AI and machine learning applications for the c-store industry, especially in foodservice, in “Welcome to an Intelligent 2022” in the January 2022 issue.