This fall, Kroger will begin experimenting with grocery delivery by unmanned vehicles as a part of what officials called a “game-changing” partnership with the Silicon Valley robotics firm Nuro.
Under the plan, customers can place orders through Kroger’s ClickList ordering system and Nuro’s app. The orders will be delivered by Nuro’s fleet of autonomous vehicles.
The test will be the first for Nuro's hardware and software; the pilot market will be revealed shortly.
“We are incredibly excited about the potential of our innovative partnership with Nuro to bring the future of grocery delivery to customers today,” Yael Cosset, Kroger's chief digital officer, said in a statement. “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.”
The test has the potential to address “last-mile” delivery costs that thus far have made grocery delivery a tricky proposition for supermarkets. For Kroger, the Nuro partnership represents another step toward automating that process. Last month the Cincinnati-based grocer said it had reached a deal with the British e-commerce company Ocado to build and operate a fleet of automated warehouses to facilitate order picking. Kroger currently operates its ClickList online shopping service primarily through local stores, utilizing store employees to assemble orders for customer pickup.
“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, Mountain View, Calif. “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.”
Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu co-founded Nuro in 2016. Both were principal engineers at Google’s self-driving car project, today known as Waymo. Nuro’s first product is a driverless, passengerless van-like vehicle designed to make local deliveries.
“The Kroger mission to expand and improve the grocery experience for everyone aligns with our goal to make grocery delivery a convenient, affordable option for families everywhere,” the company said in a blog post.