Kroger is expanding its self-driving delivery pilot to two Houston stores in spring 2019. Kroger and robotics company Nuro have operated a self-driving grocery delivery service in Scottsdale, Ariz. for a Fry Food Stores location since August 2018, serving a single zip code with an autonomous vehicle fleet and completing thousands of deliveries, according to a company statement.
Customers in four Houston ZIP codes served by the new program will be able to place orders for same-day or next-day delivery via Kroger.com or the Kroger mobile app, based on time slot availability. The service, to be available seven days a week, will carry a $5.95 flat fee, with no minimum order requirement.
In Scottsdale, the company used autonomous Toyota Priuses, which also will be used for the initial deliveries in Houston. Later this year, however, the retailer will switch to the Nuro R1 custom unmanned vehicle.With no driver or passengers, the R1 travels on public roads and only transports goods. The vehicle has been in development since 2016.
For its 2018 fiscal year, the supermarket giant saw digital sales jump 58%, and it expanded online grocery delivery and/or pickup service to 91% of households in its major markets. With this much penetration in grocery delivery and pickup, Kroger has plenty of areas where it can test the driverless technology next.
“Our Arizona pilot program confirmed the flexibility and benefits provided by autonomous vehicles and how much customers are open to more innovative solutions,” said Yael Cosset, Chief Digital Officer at Kroger in a statement. “It’s always been our shared vision to scale this initiative to new markets, using world–changing technology to enable a new type of delivery service for our customers. We operate 102 stores in Houston — an energetic market that embraces digital and technology advancement. The launch is one more way we are committed to sustainably providing our customers with anything, anytime, and anywhere, the way they want it.”
Numerous major players have started autonomous delivery pilots designed for same-day or next-day delivery, including Walmart, Amazon and most recently FedEx, which is collaborating with Walmart, AutoZone, Lowe’s, Target and Walgreens in ways that the companies have not yet specified.