Nuro, a self-starter vehicle-driven local delivery company, has partnered with Kroger, a 135-year-old food retailer, to deliver same-day deliveries. The two have not yet announced the market in which they will live, but it is planned to launch the pilot project lasting several months this fall.
The intention of Nuro is to use its self-driving technology in the last mile for the delivery of local goods and services. This could be things like groceries, dry cleaning, an object that you left in a friend's house or anything that lies within the city limits and that can fit into the room. 39, one of Nuro's vehicles. Nuro has two compartments that can hold up to six grocery bags each.
When he acted to go to the market, Nuro's CEO, Dave Ferguson, told me that the grocery stores were very exciting for him. And Kroger is particularly distinguished because of its smart shelf technology and its partnership with Ocado around automated fulfillment centers.
"With the pilot project, we are excited to have more experience interacting with real customers and understanding exactly what they want," Ferguson said. "The things that they like about it, the things that they do not like as much." As an organization for us, it's also very important for us to exercise our operational muscles. "
Throughout the pilot program, Nuro will investigate the extent to which delivery times are accurate, how the public reacts to vehicles, and how regular base cars interact with autonomous cars.
The pilot will be present in a single market, but Kroger has 2,800 stores nationwide. Nuro sees the partnership as an opportunity to reach the vast majority of America. Kroger already offers same-day delivery to 75% of its customers. With Nuro on board, the idea is to deploy autonomous cars in areas where Kroger does not yet have delivery services.
"We want to be available to all our customers," TechCrunch Yael Cosset, Kroger's Chief Digital Officer, told TechCrunch.
On the customer side, the experience will surely be different from what they are used to. Currently, Kroger customers expect grocery delivery drivers to bring their items to their front door. With Nuro's vehicles, they will only go up to the street.
"This is an area where we will learn a lot from the pilot," Cosset said. "We have theories and assumptions about high density and low density and we want to see how that works."
Cosset went on to describe how he does not see the current model of autonomous delivery and delivery powered by a vehicle as mutually exclusive.
"We believe that they are complementary," said Cosset. "We can realize that the best time to use autonomous vehicles is between 10am and 11am and that the rest of the day has a full-service model."
On the road, Nuro will continue to seek additional partners for its local delivery ambitions. Although Nuro is excited about the partnership with Kroger, it is not exclusive.
"Since we are a start-up, we can not afford to put our eggs in one basket," Ferguson said. "But we fully intend to go big with Kroger and try to do as much as possible together."
Other potential partners for Nuro may include those such as local dry cleaners, bakeries and florists.
"I think the only realistic way to do this is to provide customers with a way to access all these local services through one place," Ferguson said. "In this way, we will be able to collectively provide this local community delivery service and have a way to get all these local businesses in the same experience."