Kroger announced today that it is ejecting humans from its autonomous delivery vehicle pilot, and going full-on, self-driving car with expanded availability.
Since August, the grocery retailer has been working with robotics company Nuro, testing grocery delivery via autonomous vehicles in Scottsdale, AZ. The initial test run completed close to one thousand deliveries. However, those were all done in self-driving Toyota Priuses, which still had a human in the car, presumably for safety reasons.
Today, Kroger is kicking the people to the curb and kicking the self-driving delivery into a higher gear as it adds Nuro’s autonomous R1. The R1 is a pod-looking vehicle that can only carry cargo with literally no place for a driver.
The two companies are calling this pilot expansion “the first-ever unmanned delivery service available to the general public,” which appears to be true, but it’s certainly not the only self-driving delivery service tests being run right now. Online grocer Farmstead has been running autonomous delivery in the Bay Area with Udelv. And in San Jose, CA, AutoX has been running its own driverless delivery test.
Kroger and Nuro’s approach is a little different as it lies somewhere between traditional delivery cars and the newer, smaller-scale rover-style robots. As noted earlier, the R1 is a completely unmanned vehicle and only transports goods. It travels at less than 25 miles per hour and is half the width of a regular car. This means it can be more nimble than a traditional full-size car when navigating traffic and pedestrians, but it also can’t travel as fast, limiting the delivery radius.
Kroger and Nuro are still in the midst of testing, and full autonomous delivery vehicles are still a ways off as the technology needs to improve and city and state regulations need to be developed to keep up with the technology. However, if you’re in the Scottsdale area, and want to experience a driverless vehicle pulling up to your house delivering your groceries, here’s how you can try it out:
Where: Fry’s Food Stores (single location): 7770 East McDowell Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85257
When: Customers can place delivery orders immediately, for delivery 7 days a week
How: Customers shop via frysfood.com or the Fry’s Food Stores mobile app and place their order based on slot availability
What: Grocery orders can be scheduled for same-day or next-day delivery by Nuro’s fleet of self-driving vehicles
Price: $5.95 flat fee; no minimum order
If you do order, let us know how it goes!