Later this year, H-E-B will launch a pilot program to test delivery service from a vehicle with self-driving technology.
The San Antonio, Texas-based retailer will use one autonomous van with driverless technology, which will serve customers near its Olmos Park H-E-B, just north of downtown in San Antonio. This is one of many innovative technologies the retailer will use to enhance its digital offerings in Texas and better meet the evolving needs and expectations of its customers.
For H-E-B, the adoption of innovative technologies has helped increase convenience, reduce costs, streamline operational efficiencies, and create jobs. As the largest privately-held employer in Texas, people will continue to play a major role throughout the business.
“Our success starts with our people, who provide exceptional hospitality and drive us to open more engaging stores that offer a world-class shopping experience,” said Craig Boyan, H-E-B president. “We’re committed to hiring more people, not fewer, and we’re adding necessary skills to become both a better tech company and brick-and-mortar retailer.”
With more than 116,000 partners (employees), the company’s workforce continues to grow and adapt as new jobs at various skill levels are created, including those in highly-technical roles. Additionally, as one of the largest private funders of public education in Texas, the company has played a pivotal role in opening the Centers for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) network of schools to train the next generation with technology-based knowledge.
To test the self-driving technology, H-E-B will source one Autonomous Delivery Vehicle (ADV) from Udelv, a California-based company that creates ADVs. The ADV has climate-controlled compartments that can hold multiple orders of fresh, frozen and dry goods, and can travel at city street and highway speeds.
“Companies like H-E-B are taking the first steps to explore the benefits autonomous deliveries can bring to their customers and employees,” said Daniel Laury, CEO of Udelv. “As the most loved retailer in Texas, H-E-B is an amazing partner for Udelv as we scale our Autodeliv service and work to make deliveries faster and safer. We look forward to serving the people of Texas with Newton, our second-generation ADV.”
During the first phase of the pilot, the ADV will have a driver. If the initiative is expanded, the retailer will implement a multi-phased roll out to give the technology time to learn the safest, most efficient routes, which will eventually lead to the ADV becoming fully driverless.
For the pilot, which will initially involve one ADV, select customers can sign up to receive deliveries from the autonomous vehicle during the test period.
“At H-E-B, we continue to evaluate and utilize innovative technologies in all parts of our business,” said Paul Tepfenhart, senior vice president of Omnichannel and Emerging Technologies at Central Market and H-E-B. “As a leading digital-retail leader in Texas, we will continue to grow our partner population as well as technology presence to complement our store operations, enabling customers to choose how they shop, pay for and receive products.”
This trial is part of efforts to integrate more technology-based services into H-E-B’s digital lineup. Along with Favor, an on-demand delivery service, H-E-B continues to expand e-commerce offerings such as H-E-B Curbside and H-E-B Home Delivery, which are expected to be at more than 200 locations by year’s end and employ more than 5,500 partners companywide, and H-E-B Go, a mobile solution that allows people to scan and pay for their items with their phones.