CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) is testing out a new way to get prescriptions out to its customers: self-driving vehicles. CVS is working with Nuro, a robotics and artificial intelligence company founded by two former Google engineers. Houston will be the initial test market for the automated delivery service, which will come at no additional charge for customers.
Customers will also be able to add nonprescription items to their orders. And when placing their orders on the pharmacy chain's website or through its app, consumers within select zip codes near the Bellaire suburb of Houston will see an option available for autonomous delivery.
News of this plan comes almost a month after the company released its first-quarter earnings on May 6, when it reported a massive surge in demand for telehealth services and home delivery. In Q1, telehealth and virtual visits were up 600% from the prior-year period. And there was a 1,000% increase in the home delivery of prescriptions. The ongoing heightened demand for such services comes as people are staying home amid the COVID-19 pandemic and seeking convenient options for getting their prescriptions without putting themselves at risk.
However, the company expects this trend to persist past the immediate crisis. CVS CEO Larry Merlo said that "we expect elements of today's new norm will become part of tomorrow's everyday routines."
This isn't the only recent example of the retailer adopting cutting-edge technology to help it reach its customers in new ways. In April, United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS) announced it would be partnering with CVS to deliver prescriptions via drones to a Florida retirement community.
Year to date, shares of the healthcare company remain down by 11% while the S&P 500 is down 4%.