Drones are now being used by the giant grocery chains in the US. Both Kroger and rival Walmart are collaborating separately with autonomous vehicle companies in a bid to lower the high-cost of “last-mile” deliveries to customer doorsteps, as online retailer Amazon.com rolls out free Whole Foods delivery for subscribers to its Prime perks program.
Kroger’s the biggest U.S. grocery chain declared that the next evolution of its seamless grocery service customised for consumers has arrived with its project that will use driverless cars to deliver groceries. It is still in testing phase in a Phoenix suburb. In this self-driving service, shoppers can place same-day or next-day delivery orders online or on a mobile app for a flat rate of about $6. A driverless vehicle will deliver the groceries curb side. The customers will be provided with a numeric code to access the groceries in the vehicle. In its trail run a self-driving car delivery from the Fry’s store will cost $5.95 with no minimum order. It is only available at addresses within the store’s zip code of 85257, Kroger said.
Currently Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. is operating with Toyota Prius vehicles and partnering with Nuro, a Silicon Valley start-up founded by two engineers who previously worked on autonomous vehicles at Google. In the pilot project the cars have humans to oversee the trial and override autonomous systems in the event of an error or emergency. Nuro’s R1 driverless delivery van, which has no seats, will begin testing this autumn, the companies said.
“Our goal is to save people time, while operating safely and learning how we can further improve the experience,” Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson said in a statement.
“Kroger wants to bring more customers the convenience of affordable grocery delivery,” said Kroger Chief Digital Officer Yael Cosset, who added that the test will also gauge consumer demand for the service.
“While we compete for final certification and testing of the R1, the Prius will be delivering groceries and helping us improve the overall service,” a Nuro spokeswoman said.
On similar lines is the Google autonomous vehicle project called Waymo, which started a pilot program last month at Walmart stores in Phoenix that involved self-driving vehicles transporting customers to and from their selected Walmart location to pick up online grocery orders.
Waymo has also been testing a service where bus and light rail riders can order an autonomous car to their nearest transit stop. Employees with Valley Metro, the agency that manages Phoenix-area transit lines, are test riders as of now. Waymo employees are also gathering data from test drives, the agency said. Arizona continues to be the preferred testing ground for self-driving technology.
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