The grocery industry's ongoing battle to win market share through the convenience of delivery services heated up again last week when Kroger Co. announced that it will begin experimenting with a fleet of driverless grocery delivery vehicles by the end of this year. The program is being developed for Kroger by Nuro, a company founded by two former Google engineers who worked on self-driving cars. The company has not yet announced what markets it plans to test this new service. However, the Associated Press speculated that California and/or Arizona are likely test markets.
Under the concept, customers will order groceries from a mobile app. Once the order is placed and filled, a driverless vehicle, a box-like structure that appears to be the size of a Smart Car, will deliver the order to a curb at the customer's location. The customer will have to be present and will enter a code to open and retrieve the groceries.
The company has not yet addressed potential problems that can result from these vehicles. The speed of the vehicles, for instance, has not been mentioned.
It is apparent that convenience continues to be the driving factor of competition among grocers. I will be curious to see if other companies (Amazon, Wal-Mart, etc.) embrace this futuristic concept.
Kroger's video announcing its Nuro vehicle delivery service is available here.