Kroger Launches Autonomous Grocery Delivery Service

The Kroger Co. and Nuro Inc. have launched a grocery delivery service in Scottsdale, Az., that uses the Silicon Valley startup’s fully autonomous R1 pods.

The partners have been testing the service since August with modified versions of Toyota Prius hybrid cars. Those vehicles, which had human backup drivers onboard, made about 1,000 deliveries over the last four months.

The driverless R1, which is about the same length of a compact crossover vehicle but half the width, will be monitored by remote engineers who can take control of the vehicles if necessary. Nuro says the vehicle’s autonomous systems also include redundant backups. The car’s sensor array includes cameras, lidar and radar.

Initially, the service will be limited to destinations within a one-mile radius of Kroger’s Fry’s Food Store affiliate. The R1, which has a top speed of 25 mph, can drive on residential roads but will be kept off highways and other main roads.

Nuro was launched in mid-2016 by Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, both of whom previously worked for Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving car program, which is now called Waymo. The company aims to expand trials to other cities and partners next year.