Starting today, if you shop at Fry’s Food Store onEast McDowell Road in Scottsdale, Arizona, you can get your groceries delivered via self-driving car.
This is the first such pilot to come from the previously announced partnership between Fry’s parent company, Kroger, and autonomous driving startup Nuro.
According to the press announcement, customers can shop via frysfood.com or the Fry’s Food Stores mobile app, and place their order based on available time slots. Grocery orders can be scheduled for same-day or next-day delivery by Nuro’s fleet of self-driving vehicles for a flat $5.95 fee with no minimum order.
The only bummer about this pilot is that for now, the two companies are using a self-driving Toyota Prius fleet — not the cute li’l R1 robot delivery pod/vehicles (seen in the picture above). The R1s will begin rolling out this fall. A Nuro spokesperson explained the Prius move, telling TechCrunch “The Priuses share many software and hardware systems with the R1 custom vehicle, so while we compete final certification and testing of the R1, the Prius will begin delivering groceries and help us improve the overall service and customer experience.”
What’s not spelled out in the press release is the role of humans in this pilot. As these are tests to learn about consumers’ acceptance of autonomous vehicles for delivery, I assume that there will be a human in the car for safety reasons. But is that a Kroger or a Nuro person? And will they bring the groceries in or just sit in the car while people come out to pick up their food? The R1s don’t have drivers, so those will presumably present an entirely different experience for the customer when those roll out.
Regardless, this self-driving delivery pilot is among the many tech moves Kroger is making in its ongoing grocery delivery battles with the likes of Amazon, Walmart and Albertsons. Earlier this year, Kroger increased its investment in U.K.-based Ocado, and will bring that company’s robotic, smart warehouses and last-mile logistics platform to the U.S. for faster, more efficient delivery.
When all these programs run for real, you’ll have robots packing your groceries, which will be loaded into autonomous vehicles that will deliver them to your door any time of day or night. If you’re in Scottsdale and shop at Fry’s, let us know if you use the new autonomous driving delivery and how well it goes.