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Kroger and Nuro Launch Driverless Grocery Deliveries in Houston

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【Summary】Autonomous deliveries will be available seven days a week; and time slots are based on availability. To meet the on-demand aspects of the service, customers can choose between same-day or next-day deliveries.

Michael Cheng    Apr 20, 2019 11:00 AM PT
Kroger and Nuro Launch Driverless Grocery Deliveries in Houston

Nuro is on a hot streak this year, as it transitions from self-driving pilot programs to integration with existing businesses. Earlier this month, the driverless startup announced the launching of autonomous grocery delivery services, with leading consumable products chain Kroger.

Together, the two companies will offer on-demand groceries in Houston, Texas. In the collaboration, Nuro will provide a self-driving fleet for the service. Consisting of autonomous Toyota Priuses, the cars are equipped with driverless sensors, computing devices and safety drivers. The startup's custom autonomous vehicles (R1) may also be deployed in the area by the end of 2019.

Autonomous Delivery Service

Initially, autonomous grocery deliveries will start with Kroger's South Post Oak branch and the Buffalo Speedway store (service areas: 77401, 77096, 77005 and 77025). To use the service, customers are required to order products via Kroger's main website or mobile app. Autonomous deliveries will be available seven days a week; and time slots are based on availability. To meet the on-demand aspects of the service, customers can choose between same-day or next-day deliveries.

"Kroger continues to redefine the customer experience, and we're thrilled to provide our customers with a new way to have their groceries delivered," said Marlene Stewart, President of Kroger (Houston Division).

"We thank Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston community for being terrific partners and for supporting consumer-focused robotics."

The service costs $5.95 (flat rate) per delivery. There are no minimum order requirements associated with the offering. When receiving groceries, customers must provide a transaction code, which unlocks a compartment holding the ordered products.

Ohio-based Kroger currently ranks second in annual grocery sales within the US – just behind retail juggernaut Walmart (Amazon sits in eighth place, according to Progressive Grocer's 2018 rankings). Leveraging the grocery chain's network, Nuro should receive plenty of exposure through the ongoing partnership. To date, the robotics startup has completed more than 1,000 autonomous deliveries, during trials in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Nuro R1 Self-driving Vehicle

As mentioned previously, the Nuro R1 self-driving vehicle is expected to roll out in Houston later this year. The compact autonomous unit has been fully optimized to do one thing extremely well: deliver groceries safely. On the road, the unmanned vehicle can hold up to 12 grocery bags per trip.

With a maximum traveling speed of 25 mph, the vehicle does not have room for human passengers (no steering wheel, pedals and windows). This feature makes the unit much safer to use in public locations. In the event of a collision, it will never have to choose between saving an on-board passenger or pedestrians crossing the street and individuals riding in other cars on the road. The vehicle is programmed to prioritize humans over its cargo at all times.

"Nuro's initial application of transporting goods through self-driving technology has allowed us to build a real service and have immediate impact on communities," cited Dave Ferguson, Co-founder of Nuro.

"We are excited to introduce Houston to our time-saving service that provides customers with their groceries quickly and safely."

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