TECHNOLOGY

Kroger brings delivery—without drivers—to Houston

BY Dan Berthiaume

The Kroger Co. is expanding an autonomous grocery delivery pilot from Arizona to Texas.

Since August 2018, Kroger has partnering with autonomous vehicle manufacturer Nuro to deliver groceries to online shoppers with unmanned cars in Scottsdale, Arizona. In December 2018, Kroger switched the pilot from using Nuro’s fleet of self-driving Toyota Prius cars to Nuro’s proprietary R1 autonomous vehicle.

Starting this spring, Kroger will offer autonomous grocery delivery with Nuro’s self-driving Toyota Priuses from two stores in Houston, reaching customers residing in four local ZIP codes. The expansion follows thousands of safe, successful deliveries completed in the Scottsdale pilot.

Customers will be able to place orders for delivery seven days a week, via the Kroger website or mobile app, based on slot availability. Grocery orders can be scheduled for same-day or next-day delivery. Later this year, Kroger will begin using the next generation of Nuro’s proprietary autonomous vehicles for deliveries in Houston.

There is a flat $5.95 delivery fee with no minimum order. Kroger is also continuing to offer autonomous grocery delivery with Nuro vehicles in Scottsdale. As in Scottsdale, Kroger and Nuro will begin the service with Nuro’s self-driving Toyota Prius fleet and will introduce the next generation of the custom driverless vehicle later this year.

“Our Arizona pilot program confirmed the flexibility and benefits provided by autonomous vehicles and how much customers are open to more innovative solutions,” said Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer. “It’s always been our shared vision to scale this initiative to new markets, using world-changing technology to enable a new type of delivery service for our customers. We operate 102 stores in Houston — an energetic market that embraces digital and technology advancement. The launch is one more way we are committed to sustainably providing our customers with anything, anytime, and anywhere, the way they want it.”

Autonomous vehicles have been a leading trend in online delivery during 2019. In the past few months, Amazon and FedEx have launched pilots of self-navigating delivery robots.

In the grocery arena, Walmart started testing grocery delivery with autonomous vans from Udelv in January, while Stop & Shop is launching a pilot of self-delivery vehicles from Robomart that bring a selection of shoppable grocery goods to the customer’s door. Furthermore, on-demand delivery service DoorDash is piloting the use of autonomous vehicles from GM to deliver meal and grocery orders in San Francisco.

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