Kroger: Autonomous groceries deliveries in 2018

Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the United States, has announced that it has entered a partnership with Nuro to pilot an on-road, fully autonomous delivery experience.

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
— Dave Ferguson - Co-Founder, Nuro

Nuro, a startup built by two, formerly Google lead engineers, is not focused on transportation, but rather, it specifically targets the delivery sector. The recently established company only came out of stealth mode in January 2018. Nuro's prototype has a unique design - it resembles a lunchbox-on-wheels. It has no passenger seats and it operates on full autonomous mode.  The following footage, posted on Youtube by Nuro, shows the delivery vehicle in action.

According to the press release, customers will be able to place same-day delivery orders through either Kroger's ClickList or Nuro's own app. The Kroger-Nuro partnership will be the first application of Nuro's autonomous navigation technology. It is not yet known where the autonomous service will first become available - Kroger operates 2,800 stores in 35 US States. The pilot market will be announced soon, though, and the first deliveries are expected to happen this fall. According to Dan Monk, of WCPO Cincinnati, the car will send real-time location updates to shoppers, and will enable them to open its doors using a code or their cell phone, after it reaches the delivery destination.

Apart from the obvious advantages of autonomously operated deliveries, autonomous delivery robots provide an interesting way of familiarising the public with the idea of driverless vehicles. Robo-taxi companies are already testing their vehicles - Waymo is expected to launch their commercial ride sharing service in Phoenix, AZ by the end of 2018. Recent accidents involving AV's running over pedestrians, though, call attention to a regularly ignored danger - pedestrians often act irrationally when confronted with a vehicle driving aggressively towards them. Will autonomy be able to predict such irrational behaviour, and if not, when/how will pedestrians learn to engage safely with driverless vehicles in city streets? 

Photo Credit: nuro.ai

Andrew Kyprianides