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Soon, groceries could be delivered to your doorstep — only there won’t be anyone delivering them.
Kroger, the giant supermarket chain, is launching a test of grocery delivery by driverless vehicle, the supermarket chain announced Thursday. It joins other companies, like pizzamaker Domino’s, that have been exploring the possibilities of using cars that pilot themselves.
Kroger, based in Cincinnati, is partnering with Nuro, a Silicon Valley tech company that’s developed a small, autonomous vehicle specifically for delivery. Customers in the pilot program will be able to place same-day delivery orders through Kroger’s ClickList ordering system and Nuro’s app.
Kroger hasn’t said where it plans the test to take place but several communities, including Pittsburgh and the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, have welcomed self-driving car tests.
“We are incredibly excited about the potential of our innovative partnership with Nuro to bring the future of grocery delivery to customers today,” Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer, said in a statement.
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The electric-powered vehicle, called the R1, is about have as wide and long as a large SUV and can hold about 20 grocery bags. Customers must be home to accept delivery, because there’s no human to bring the bundles to their doorstep. To open the R1 and retrieve their food, they get a code via the app.
Traditional supermarkets face increased competition from all sides, Specialty stores, such as those selling natural and organic foods, draw niche shoppers, while online grocers snag the tech-minded or convenience-focused. And retailers not known for their food offerings are working their way into the field, like Walmart, which is now the largest grocery retailer in the U.S.
Americans are projected to spend $100 billion on online grocery shopping by 2022 with as many as 70% of them regularly buying consumer packaged goods online, according to research by the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen.
“Unmanned delivery will be a game-changer for local commerce,” Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson said in a statement. Pricing wasn’t disclosed.
Kroger has an estimated 2,800 stores under different names in 35 states, according to the company.
Its stock was $28.67, down 34 cents or 1.17%, in morning trading on Thursday.
It’s sold its convenience store portfolio for $2B.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Zlati Meyer on Twitter: @ZlatiMeyer
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