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article imageKroger teams with startup to bring driver-less grocery delivery

By Karen Graham     Jun 30, 2018 in Business
Kroger, America's largest supermarket chain announced a partnership with Mountain View, California-based Nuro this week to test the concept of driver-less home deliveries.
Founded in 2016, Nuro is a technology company which aims to accelerate the benefits of robotics for everyday life.
Nuro is made up of a team of entrepreneurs and engineers, designers, and scientists who believe the advancements they are making in robotics and machine learning today will dramatically improve the way we live tomorrow.
Kroger announced it's plan to team up with Nuro on Thursday to deliver groceries using the company's autonomous vehicles. The move comes at a time when some of the largest grocery chains in the U.S. are looking at ways tackle the expensive challenge of "last mile delivery" - getting a product to a shopper's home.
"Last mile delivery" is further complicated by the need to keep fresh foods and dairy products at the right temperatures, as well as the logistics of serving populations that vary wildly across the U.S., with some far less dense than others.
Nuro co-founder and President Dave Ferguson told Tech Crunch using the autonomous driving technology for grocery delivery was the most exciting to him, and Kroger stood out because of its "smart-shelf" technology and its partnership with Ocado around automated fulfillment centers.
The deal between Ocado and Kroger was finalized on May 17, 2018. Kroger will use Ocado's technology platform for online retail sales, which are primarily groceries. The technology will be used in the U.S. for the first time, exclusively by Kroger.
“With the pilot, we’re excited about getting more experience interacting with real customers and understanding exactly what they want,” Ferguson said. “The things they love about it, the things they don’t love as much. As an organization for us, it’s also very valuable for us to have to exercise our operational muscle.”
Pilot program to start this fall
Kroger and Nuro will begin their partnership this fall. said Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer, in an interview with CNBC. Cosset did not detail a timeline, but did say it would be "aggressive."
Kroger supermarket  3200 Carpenter Road  Pittsfiled Township  Michigan.
Kroger supermarket, 3200 Carpenter Road, Pittsfiled Township, Michigan.
Dwight Burdett
Kroger has more than 2,800 stores across the U.S., under store brand names like Kroger, Fred Meyer, Ralph's and Harris Teeter. The experiment using the technology will be in areas that both overlap with and are separate from where it plans to build out its Ocado warehouses.
"Where you have high density, an autonomous vehicle may not be the best solution," Cosset noted. But eventually, "you can expect the rollout of Ocado as well as fulfillment capabilities, autonomous delivery ... to be available to 100 percent of America
Nuro autonomous technology
Shaped like a large toaster with wheels, with cameras and sensors mounted on a lateral arch on the roof, the Nuro vehicle weighs about 1,500 pounds. The battery pack and electric motors - which are mounted beneath the floor - account for most of the weight.
Untitled
Nuro
The Nuro is only about 40 inches wide, just a tad over three feet, but it is rated to carry a whopping 243 pounds of cargo, The vehicle has two separate locking sections. Depending on their size, grocery orders will be placed in one or both of the secured holding areas.
Customers will be able to access the compartments to retrieve their products using smartphone codes they received when they placed their orders. Remember, this type of delivery is not the same as delivery to your front door. You will have to go curbside to get your groceries.
There is still a lot to work out in this venture, because after all, driver-less grocery delivery is still in its infancy, and population shifts can be part of the equation. But we will be following this development.
More about Kroger, NURO, driverless delivery, autonomous vehicles, "Last mile delivery"
 
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