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Oklahoma City Grocers Partner With Udelv for Driverless Delivery

Buy For Less family of brands to launch 10 customized self-driving cargo vans for online grocery service in 2019
Photograph courtesy of Udelv

Oklahoma City residents will soon be able to get their groceries delivered via driverless cars.

Esperanza Real Estate Investments and Narnia Road have inked a deal with autonomous-vehicle startup Udelv to supply the Buy For Less family of supermarket brands with self-driving delivery vans to fulfill online grocery orders.

Udelv will provide an initial fleet of 10 customized cargo vans for Uptown Grocery Co., Buy For Less, Buy For Less Super Mercado and Smart Saver to service the Oklahoma City metro area. The first vehicle is scheduled to hit the road in the first quarter of 2019, with the full fleet arriving by the end of June 2019.

The partnership marks the first grocery chain in the world to make such a large-scale investment in the autonomous delivery vans (ADV) industry, according to a company statement.

“This agreement and subsequent advent of ADV technology in Oklahoma City is a technological win for Oklahoma,” said Susan Binkowski, CEO of Esperanza and co-owner of the BFL Grocery Co. with husband and founder Hank Binkowski. “We believe we exist to elevate communities and relationships, always striving to be innovative and forward-thinking with decisions on how to serve our community. As a leading provider of grocery in Oklahoma, we are thrilled to add this new technology that enhances our ability to deliver food with excellence, service and convenience to Oklahoma families. And we are proud to be working with a visionary company committed to helping us pioneer the future of delivery technology.”

The deal arrives shortly after The Kroger Co. in August launched a pilot fleet of autonomous vehicles in Scottsdale, Ariz., in partnership with Silicon Valley-based robotics firm Nuro. Kroger said it plans to introduce Nuro's custom driverless delivery van with storage compartments this fall.

San Francisco-based Udelv, which currently services the Bay Area, unveiled its last-mile delivery vehicle in January 2018, when it passed the world's first public road test deliveries from Draeger's Market in San Mateo, Calif. The bright orange electric-powered van successfully completed a 2.5-mile loop with traffic lights, lane changes, left turns and two delivery stops under the supervision of a safety driver.

The vehicle features 18 cargo compartments with automatic doors using a cloud-based technology that is shared via an app between the vehicle, customers and merchants. The vehicle can drive for up to 60 miles per cycle and can load up to 700 pounds of cargo.

Under the new partnership, Udelv and Esperanza Real Estate Investments will create a state-of-the-art tele-operations center in Oklahoma City for the remote control and monitoring of the fleet. Udelv’s vans will operate with safety drivers until the companies and government authorities deem them safe for fully driverless operation.

“Teamwork will assist in mastering the miles of roads in the Oklahoma City metro area to ensure our vehicles can provide safe, convenient and affordable delivery services to local communities,” said Udelv CEO Daniel Laury. “With a vast amount of deliveries on public roads with a safety driver already completed in the San Francisco Bay Area on behalf of other clients, Udelv has demonstrated its capability to safely pioneer this technology and proven the benefits to local retail companies and their customers. But this new milestone partnership puts Oklahoma City at the forefront of technology and partnership to move further faster.”

Esperanza and Narnia Road also inked an exclusive Udelv dealership agreement for the state of Oklahoma to supply additional fleet vans to service other local merchants, residents and pharmacies in underserved markets.

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