Kroger is testing driverless grocery deliveries this autumn as the US supermarket chain looks to ramp up its ecommerce operations amid rising competition from the likes of Amazon.
Kroger has struck a partnership with Mountain View-based Nuro to pilot the scheme, which will run in an as-yet-unnamed market.
Nuro applies robotics, artificial intelligence, and computer vision technology in partnership with local businesses looking for innovative ways to deliver goods that are cost effective for merchants and convenient for customers.
“We are incredibly excited about the potential of our innovative partnership with Nuro to bring the future of grocery delivery to customers today,” says Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer. “As part of Restock Kroger, we have already started to redefine the grocery customer experience and expand the coverage area for our anything, anytime and anywhere offering. Partnering with Nuro, a leading technology company, will create customer value by providing Americans access to fast and convenient delivery at a fair price.”
Customers in the pilot will place same-day delivery orders using Kroger’s existing ClickList online ordering system. With ClickList, a delivery driver receives the customer’s name, phone number, and delivery address once the order is ready. In the test program, however, the customer’s information will be passed to Nuro’s app.
Nuro’s fully-electric, unmanned four-wheeled vehicles have two separate locking sections. Depending on their size, grocery orders will be placed in one or both of the secured holding areas. Customers will access the compartments to retrieve their products using smartphone codes they received when they placed their orders.
In addition to Kroger stores, the company also owns the Dillons, Harris Teeter, QFC, Ralphs, Roundy’s, and Smiths supermarket chains, among others. In total, Kroger says it owns 2,800 stores in 35 states.
Nuro differs from some other autonomous delivery startups—including Starship and Marble—because its vehicles are designed to operate on public streets rather than on pavements.
Its vehicles are designed to travel at speeds up to 25 mph (40 km/h)—fast enough to keep up with traffic in a lot of residential neighborhoods. Nuro hopes to increase its maximum speed to 35 mph (55 km/h) as its technology matures.