Emerging Service: Driverless Grocery Delivery

driverless grocery delivery

If you’re still adapting to having your groceries delivered by a person, you’re in for a new shock as one of the largest grocery chains in the US prepares to launch a delivery service with a fleet of driverless vehicles.

Despite some recently tragedies that involved self-driving cars, the autonomous automobile industry is moving forward with new partnerships. Kroger recently announced that it is working with the startup Nuro to launch the next-generation of grocery delivery services. Kroger has over 2,500 grocery stores spanning 35 states with access to approximately 9 million customers; some of those stores bear different names, like Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, and Ralph’s. Nuro is headed by two former employees of a little company you may have heard of called Google. As veterans of a leading self-driving company, they seem uniquely qualified to bring Kroger’s service to life.

As most new services do, Kroger’s driverless delivery service will launch with some beta testing. They haven’t announced which lucky city (or cities) will be part of the pilot test yet, but they expect to launch that in the fall.

Most of the driverless cars these days still have humans inside the vehicle for safety reasons; they are able to take over control of the car if needed. Kroger’s fleet will not deviate from this practice, at least in the beginning. They have said that the safety drivers aren’t there to help you, though, so don’t expect assistance unloading your groceries. While this might upset some people, it’s a tactic that is meant to prepare people for how the actual service will work once the safety drivers are removed.

The Nuro cars don’t look like normal cars; they are smaller and thinner (since they aren’t actually made to hold people at all) and equipped with sensors, radar and cameras.

Here’s what it would be like to use Kroger’s autonomous grocery delivery services:

  • Shoppers can use the Kroger website or app to access their delivery portal
  • Eventually, Nuro will also offer an app that allows Kroger customers to order
  • Groceries will be picked by an employee, much as they are now, and bagged
  • Once ready, bags will be loaded into the Nuro car, which will feature temperature-controlled compartments
  • The vehicle will be programmed with the location, and will go on its way
  • Deliveries can be tracked using the app
  • Since the cars are driverless, groceries will no longer be brought to the door; customers will have to meet the car at the curb to unload their own groceries
  • Though still in development, the cars will likely have a pin verification pad for the customer to use to unlock the car
  • It’s likely that the customer will “end” their delivery either through the app or through a screen in the car so that the car knows to return to the store

While this type of service is sure to encounter many hurdles, it will certainly be interesting to watch how it works, how competitors respond, and how emerging technologies enhance offerings.

To see how else technology is changing the delivery game, be sure to read Would You Put a Locker on Your Porch for Secure Deliveries?