Grocery chain Kroger is partnering with autonomous car company Nuro to introduce driverless cars to its grocery delivery.
The partnership is yet another solution to a difficult problem in the grocery business: the “last mile delivery” – that final step in getting the product into the customers home.
Nura, formed in 2013 by former Google engineers, is an autonomous car company built explicitly for the business of transporting goods. Its cars are slimmer and designed differently than ones meant to carry people. Nuro does not yet have special refrigerated cars but is working on a new iteration of vehicles with such technology.
In the early stages of the rollout, shoppers will need to schedule windows of delivery in advance, but Dave Ferguson, Nuro’s co-founder, said he envisions a longer-term model through which shoppers order more on-demand. Nuro also plans partnerships with other retailers besides Kroger, which it may build via revenue sharing.
Driverless grocery delivery is still a fairly new concept, and the Kroger partnership will face a number of uncertainties. It will take time to build out the infrastructure necessary to support it at scale. Planning for expansion is difficult because its hard to predict the demographics across the U.S. in 10 or 20 years. And markets across the country vary drastically in when, what and how frequently they order their groceries.
There is also the basic problem of needing to have someone at the delivery point, as the delivery car won’t be able to bring the groceries into the home.
And with any autonomous vehicle, there are safety and legal issues, like the inevitable accidents that may occur.