Grocery giant Kroger and autonomous vehicle startup Nuro launched their driverless delivery service Thursday in Scottsdale, Arizona. It is the first market for the two companies, which first announced their partnership back in June.
To start out, only one store is involved in the experiment: the Kroger-owned Fry’s Food Store on East McDowell Road. Customers can place orders via Fry’s website or mobile app. Grocery orders can be scheduled for same-day or next-day delivery. The delivery fee is $5.95 per order and there is no minimum order amount.
At first, groceries will be delivered via Nuro’s fleet of self-driving Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf vehicles, and each car will have a safety driver behind the wheel. But later this fall the company plans on swapping in its custom-built R1 driverless delivery vehicles, which are still be tested at Nuro’s headquarters in California. (Old self-driving heads will recognize a passing resemblance to the original “Firefly” prototypes that Google retired in 2017.)
Arizona is a hot bed of autonomous testing, so the selection of Scottsdale should come as no surprise. In a statement provided by Nuro, Mayor Jim Lane said, “We welcome innovative technology that can benefit the lives of Scottsdale residents. We feel this partnership holds tremendous potential and promise, and offers our residents real, not-yet-experienced convenience for everyday routines.”
Whether Fry’s Food Store shoppers see a benefit from the driverless deliveries remains to be seen. Unlike a typical, human-powered delivery service, customers will need to walk to the curb to retrieve their groceries — in anticipation of eventually using human-free delivery vehicle. The operators are certainly banking on the novelty of receiving produce, cold cuts, and a six-pack of beer from a vehicle that looks like a toaster on wheels in overcoming any initial feelings of inconvenience by the customers.