In a year that has likely seen more grocery delivery pilots than any other, retailer Kroger is closing out 2018 with the debut of its unmanned delivery service—which it says is the world’s first—in sunny Scottsdale, Ariz.
For the record, it’s probably more accurate to call this “one of the first” as Walmart at least has tested self-driving cars for grocery delivery in Arizona and Florida. Nevertheless, Kroger announced the pilot with robotics company Nuro in June, and, since August, they have tested an autonomous fleet of “a handful of” Priuses with safety drivers just in case someone needed to intervene. Together, they have completed nearly 1,000 deliveries in Scottsdale.
Now, Kroger is adding two R1 unmanned vehicles to its fleet, which Nuro designed to transport goods on public roads without passengers and marks the first deployment of its technology for the general public. (The Priuses will continue to have safety drivers.)
To start, deliveries are available from a single store in the “Kroger Family,” the Fry’s Food Store at 7770 East McDowell Road. A Kroger rep said customers who live within the store’s zip code—85257—will have access to the service.
Customers place orders online or via the Fry’s app. An announcement said same- and next-day delivery is available. All orders have a $5.95 fee, but there is no minimum for order total.
In a statement, Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer, said the partnership helps the brand give customers anything they want, anytime and anywhere.
That being said, the Arizona Republic recently reported at least 21 incidents of harassment or violence against autonomous vehicles from Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo—and their human drivers—in nearby Chandler, Ariz. That includes: waving a gun, throwing rocks, slashing a tire, forcing vehicles off the road and standing in front of them to block their way.
Waymo has reportedly tested self-driving technology in the area since 2016 and, the Arizona Republic said, these incidents could point to anxiety among residents about technology and change.
That could be bad news for Walmart, which announced a self-driving grocery pilot with Waymo in Chandler in July. (It was not immediately clear whether any Walmart deliveries have been impacted by the above incidents.)
A rep for Nuro, however said, “We have not encountered those issues and have felt welcomed by the people of Scottsdale.”
We’ll have to wait and see how Scottsdale residents feel about R1 in 2020.