Kroger says a fleet of diminutive driverless cars will offer low-cost grocery delivery.
In a move that may signal the future of aftermarket part delivery, a U.S. grocery chain has announced it will launch a pilot project to deliver groceries using unmanned vehicles by the end of the year.
Kroger Co., which has been experimenting with cutting edge shopping techniques in recent years, says it will use a fleet of diminutive driverless cars designed to lower delivery costs.
The Cincinnati-based company is teaming up with Nuro, a Silicon Valley start-up founded two years ago by two engineers who worked on self-driving cars at Google. That Google project, called Waymo, has plans to introduce a ride-hailing service that will pick up passengers in fully autonomous cars.
Kroger says the location of the pilot project hasn’t been determined yet.
Customers will be able to order groceries from a mobile app, and a driverless vehicle will deliver the groceries to the curb in front of the customer’s home. Customers will have to be present to fetch the items. The vehicles will probably be opened with a numeric code.
Kroger currently offers grocery delivery in vehicles driven by people at about 1,200 of its 2,800 stores, covering about 20 different markets in the U.S. If the Nuro tests go well, Kroger say it’s likely to expand its use of driverless cars, potentially allowing its supermarkets to reduce its delivery fees and reassign workers who had been driving cars to other jobs focused on improving customer service.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, about one third of American consumers say they won’t try grocery delivery apps because they believe they’ll be too expensive. The papers suggests wide-scale driverless delivery is still “years away” but when it happens, it “would make such services cheaper and easier to introduce in less densely populated parts of the country.”
In previous innovations, Kroger has invested $250 million in the UK’s Ocado Group “to run automated delivery warehouses and process digital orders.” It also recently purchased the Home Chef meal-kit company.