They say everything is bigger in Texas, but soon, diminutive electric vehicles will be autonomously shuttling around Houston, as Kroger announced today it is expanding its self-driving grocery pilot with Nuro to Texas’ largest city.

Kroger began its self-driving partnership with Nuro in Scottsdale, AZ in August last year and in that time has made thousands of deliveries, according to today’s press announcement. The expansion into Houston will involve two Kroger stores serving four zip codes:

  • Store One: 10306 South Post Oak Road, Houston, TX, servicing 77401 and 77096
  • Store Two: 5150 Buffalo Speedway, Houston, TX, servicing 77005 and 77025

Today’s news comes a little over a month since SoftBank invested $940 million in Nuro, which makes the R1, a pod-like, electric low-speed vehicle. They are about half the size of a traditional car and have a top speed of 25 mph. But Houstonians won’t see those pods on the street quite yet. Similar to the Scottsdale program, the Houston roll out will initially use self-driving Toyota Priuses, before shifting to Nuro’s R1s next year.

While the pilot in Scottsdale has evidently generated enough positive results to expand the program to a more populated city like Houston, there is still a bigger question over whether people want self-driving vehicles for grocery delivery. Part of the value in grocery delivery is the delivery person, who lugs heavy bags from the curb to your front door (or up your steps). This is one reason Nuro’s self-driving rival, AutoX, is putting more emphasis on its restaurant food delivery business.

Kroger didn’t provide a specific launch date for its Houston delivery, only saying that it will start this Spring.

Autonomous grocery delivery is definitely something we will be talking about at our upcoming ArticulATE food robot conference next month in San Francisco. AutoX’s COO, Jewel Li will be speaking as well as Ali Ahmed, the CEO of Robomart, which also uses pod-like vehicles to get you your food. Get your tickets today!

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