Grocery giant Kroger has been investing in the future for the past few years in an effort to stay ahead of emerging trends. From interactive shelving displays to automated fulfillment centers, the 135-year-old supermarket chain has been keeping their eyes out for the latest in grocery store innovations and now they are planning to incorporate driverless technology with their grocery delivery service. The retailer has officially partnered with Nuro, a California-based robotics company that has developed the world’s first self-driving road vehicle, to deliver their online grocery orders.
Kroger’s customers can place their same-day grocery delivery orders by using the retailer’s ClickList ordering system or by using Nuro’s app. Both companies are planning to test out this new automatic delivery service in a pilot market that they have yet to announce. Nevertheless, they expect that this innovative delivery service will change the status quo for common grocery delivery programs because it is both convenient and affordable.
“Unmanned delivery will be a game-changer for local commerce, and together with Kroger, we’re thrilled to test this new delivery experience to bring grocery customers new levels of convenience and value,” said Dave Ferguson, Co-Founder of Nuro in a release. “Our safe, reliable, and affordable service, combined with Kroger’s ubiquitous brand, is a powerful first step in our mission to accelerate the benefits of robotics for everyday life.”
In addition to cost-effectiveness, Nuro’s automated vehicles can help Kroger reach out to low-density markets with smaller populations. This way the retailer saves on expanding their stores to these regions. For now, the companies will focus on metropolitan areas where orders can be fulfilled within a limited time and radius. However, Kroger has yet to make an investment in Nuro because the company is waiting to see the results of their initial pilot program first.
With Nuro being built specifically for delivering goods to consumers, the robotics company has a good chance at impressing Kroger. The vehicle has two compartments and customers can access these compartments by using an access code that they receive after making an order. The fully autonomous vehicle is equipped with cameras and sensors to prevent collisions. The vehicle also travels at 25 to 35 miles an hour but is about half the width of a regular car, which makes it easy to avoid on the road.
This might bring assurance to consumers who are wary about automated vehicles, especially after an automated Uber vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian in Arizona in the spring. However, according to a study by Pew Research Centre that involved 4000 participants, half of consumers reported that they were concerned about riding in an automated vehicle but two-thirds look forward to having these vehicles deliver goods to them in the future.
Kroger might be innovating with the launch of this automated delivery system but they are far from being the only retailer investing in the future. With Amazon Go currently expanding to different cities, grocers are looking into similar types of checkout free technology. Amazon has also invested in drone delivery systems, which have the advantage of aerial delivery over standard road delivery. In addition, a California-based company, Robomart, has launched a self-driving grocery store that can come directly to consumers prior to any purchases being made. However, this does not mean that Kroger is behind in any sense, as the retailer has been investing in their own grocery store innovations. At the end of the day, consumers want the foods of their choice at a low-price and in the most convenient way possible, which Kroger seems to deliver with this new automated delivery program.
“We are incredibly excited about the potential of our innovative partnership with Nuro to bring the future of grocery delivery to customers today,” said 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.”