American grocery store chain Kroger has partnered with self-driving car company Nuro to provide an autonomous delivery service in Arizona.
The collaboration, which was announced back in June, first used a fleet of self-driving Toyota Prius’ with safety drivers in case anything went pear-shaped.
But Kroger is now adding Nuro’s driverless R1 vehicle to its fleet and removing safety drivers from the vehicles.
The R1 – a quirky looking amalgamation of a minivan, a fridge and something from Wall-E – is designed to transport groceries and other products.
Thanks to Arizona’s commitment to developing driverless technology, it is able to drive on public roads and operate fully without a driver or any passengers.
For the moment the vehicles will only make deliveries for a single Fry’s Food Store location in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Customers place orders online or on the store’s app and schedule same-day or next-day delivery. The deliveries will be made by either a self-driving Prius or Nuro’s R1 and will cost only A$8.28.
“Nuro envisions a world without errands, where everything is on-demand and can be delivered affordably,” Kroger president Dave Ferguson said in a statement.
“Operating a delivery service using our custom unmanned vehicles is an important first step toward that goal.”
Outside of Silicon Valley, Arizona has become the epicentre of driverless vehicle research. Companies like Uber, Waymo, Intel and GM have all tested their autonomous vehicle programs in the state.
The state has even created a dedicated autonomous research institute, called the Institute for Automated Mobility (IAM), aimed at developing industry standards and best practices regarding driverless technology.
So far the vehicles have completed almost a thousand deliveries to the general public with a 100 per cent success rate. Assuming such results continue, it won’t be long until programs like Kroger’s spread through the US and the rest of the Western world.
No more trips to Woolies to stock up on Christmas goodies? Sign me up.