Autonomous grocery deliveries could soon come to local neighborhoods as the Kroger supermarket chain announced last Thursday that it will partner with Nuro for self-driving grocery delivery test vehicles.
Kroger plans to roll out the self-driving grocery delivery service in an unnamed test market this fall and has tapped the Silicon Valley robotics company Nuro for the vehicles. Nuro is a relative newcomer to the self-driving car field, but it was born from great expertise. Two ex-Google engineers, previously on the Google self-driving car project, founded Nuro in 2016 to focus on last-mile autonomous delivery vehicles. Last-mile transportation focuses on transporting objects from a hub to a final destination.
Kroger's pilot program will be the first deployment of Nuro's self-driving vehicles. Customers will be able to place orders via the Kroger ClickList system or Nuro app and they will show up the same day in an autonomous shuttle. Groceries will be stored in separate locking sections and customers will access the compartments via smartphone codes upon delivery.
The self-driving pod relies on the typical suite of autonomous technology: lidar, radar, and a camera system. Nuro's own software also helps the self-driving vehicle scoot around.
Nuro and Kroger aren't the first to experiment with autonomous delivery vehicles, however. Ford previously partnered with Domino's for self-driving pizza delivery vehicles. Part of the experiment was to understand how customers interact with self-driving delivery vehicles and how to refine the experience in the future.
It's unclear if there will be any cost associated to the delivery, but Yael Cosset, Kroger's chief digital officer, said customers should expect a "fair price" for fast and convenient deliveries.