The Kroger Co. is expanding its partnership with Nuro to include the robotics and artificial intelligence technology provider’s latest driverless vehicle in their grocery delivery pilot in Houston.
Plans call for Kroger to employ Nuro’s third-generation autonomous delivery vehicle, announced Wednesday, in the nearly three-year-old Houston unmanned delivery trial. Simply called Nuro, the new all-electric vehicle can carry twice the cargo volume of its second-generation counterpart, Mountain View, Calif.-based Nuro said. The zero-occupant vehicle also houses modular inserts to customize storage and offers new temperature-controlled compartments to keep food warm or cool.
“Our expanded collaboration with Nuro supports Kroger’s commitment to provide fresh food at a great value, all without asking our customers to compromise,” Yael Cosset, senior vice president and chief information officer at Cincinnati-based Kroger, said in a statement. “The role of autonomous vehicles in our seamless ecosystem continues to increase, contributing to meeting our customers in the context of their day without compromising on the quality or value, while contributing to our long-term growth and sustainability goals.”
Kroger and Nuro unveiled their partnership in June 2018 and began testing autonomous delivery at a Fry’s Food Store in Scottsdale, Ariz., in August 2018, going live with the service shortly afterward in December.
The pilot in Houston, announced in March 2019 and then launched the following month, marked an effort to test the technology in a more populous metropolitan market. The trial initially used Nuro’s manual and self-driving Toyota Prius cars and later added Nuro’s R1 and then R2 custom unmanned vehicles. Kroger started out offering Nuro delivery service at two stores serving a handful of ZIP codes, and the grocer plans to broaden the service’s availability in the area under the expanded pilot with the third-generation vehicles.
“We are excited to expand our collaboration with Nuro here in Houston, one of the largest cities in the U.S.,” commented Laura Gump, president of Kroger’s Houston division. “Our associates, customers and city embrace innovation, and we are thrilled to be able to soon provide this enterprising grocery delivery service to even more shoppers across the region.”
Nuro’s latest vehicle also brings safety enhancements. They include an external air bag to bolster protection for pedestrians and a multi-modal sensing suite with cameras, radars, lidar (light detection and ranging) and thermal cameras, giving the robot an improved 360-degree view of its surroundings. Nuro said the new model will be produced and completed in southern Nevada at its new end-of-line manufacturing facility and closed-course test track, which have the capacity to manufacture and test tens of thousands of delivery vehicles annually.
“We are thrilled to expand our longstanding strategic partnership with Kroger and further our shared vision for the future of goods delivery,” stated Dave Ferguson, co-founder and president of Nuro. “We look forward to leveraging our third-generation and most-advanced autonomous vehicle to date to continue to build on the success of this program.”
In 2021, Nuro announced a multiyear commitment with FedEx, introduced Chipotle as an investor partner, and piloted delivery with Domino’s in Houston and with 7-Eleven in Mountain View.
“As America’s largest grocer, Kroger formed a strategic collaboration with Nuro in 2018. We continue to invest in the company as a testament to its industry-leading technology and our commitment to innovation,” according to Cosset. “The third-generation vehicle launch is the latest expansion of this collaboration. We expect the rollout will continue to delight customers looking for the freshest groceries, providing them with the convenience and value they expect from Kroger.”