America’s largest standalone grocer; Kroger (NYSE: KR) is testing delivery by self-driving van in Arizona.
A van built by a company called Nuro is delivering grocery orders from Fry’s in Scottsdale, Curbed reports. The van looks like a pickup locker for delivered groceries on four wheels. Fry’s Food Store is a Kroger subsidiary.
In addition, Nuro’s self-driving Toyota Prius cars will make some deliveries. Delivery reportedly costs $5.96 per order and is only available from one Fry’s store.
This is the second self-driving vehicle delivery effort associated with Kroger. The Ocado Group Group PLC (LON: OCDO) is reportedly testing a self-driving delivery van in London. Kroger purchased 6% of Ocado last year.
“Safety drivers” are riding in some of the Nuro Priuses, Curbed notes. Unfortunately, did not say whether delivery people are taking grocery orders to doors in Scottsdale. The Ocado experiment in London involves a delivery person walking from the van to the front door.
Kroger uses Nuro’s Self-Driving Van
Nuro was founded by former Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) employees Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu in 2016. The two have apparently assembled a large team of robotics and artificial intelligence experts to develop autonomous vehicles.
The main product at Nuro is a self-driving vehicle made local goods transportation. In other words, Nuro is developing an autonomous delivery van.
Uniquely, the van has two large hatches that open upwards like the gullwing doors on a Tesla X-Series. The hatches presumably make it easier for a consumer or delivery person to unload groceries.
Such gullwing doors are not new; Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz 300 SL a classic sports car featured them in the 1950s. The 300L inspired many of the classic sports cars of the 1960s and was a favorite ride for movie stars like Clark Gable.
Nuro might be onto something. The future of delivery is probably autonomous vehicles that haul orders to the neighborhood. Once in the neighborhood a delivery person will meet the van, and carry the orders to their destination.
Are Nuro and Kroger the Future of Autonomous Delivery?
Obvious customers for Nuro’s vehicles include Kroger, Target (NYSE: TGT), Instacart, Ocado, Walmart (NYSE: WMT), FedEx, UPS (NYSE: UPS), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), and the United States Postal Service (USPS). Therefore, the delivery person of the future will take public transit or Uber, or drive her own car to her route. Once there she will meet the van which will contain the goods.
I have to wonder if the public will accept autonomous delivery vehicles on the streets. My guess is the public will only accept self-driving delivery vans if they reduce the price of shopping.