Kroger and Nuro begin driverless grocery delivery tests in the US

USA – One of the largest supermarket chains in America, Kroger together with its technology partner Nuro have started testing driverless grocery delivery at a single Fry’s Food Store in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The driverless deliveries are one of the strategies exerted by supermarket chains and general retailers including rival Walmart to lower high costs distribution to distant customers.

According to Kroger Chief Digital Officer Yael Cosset, the test seeks to bring more customers the convenience of affordable grocery delivery and determine consumer demand for the service as well.

The first phase of the test will use a fleet of Toyota Prius cars equipped with Nuro technology and in the case of an error or emergency, the cars are equipped with seats for humans who can override autonomous systems.

“While we compete final certification and testing of the R1, the Prius will be delivering groceries and helping us improve the overall service,” said a Nuro spokeswoman.

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Kroger said the self-driving car delivery from the Fry’s store will cost $5.95 with no minimum order and was only available at addresses within the store’s zip code of 85257.

Delivery rivalry

Walmart and four other retailers, on the other hand have struck a new partnership with Alphabet Inc’s self-driving car company Waymo to test a service that shuttles Phoenix shoppers to stores to collect online grocery orders.

Retailers are subsidizing the rides in autonomous vehicles in order to get traction from customers with some or all of the cost paid for by partner retailers.

On terms of the partnership, customers who decide to use Waymo rides will also get a discount on groceries when they place orders on Walmart.com.

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Amazon.com announced it is rolling out additional deals and discounts for members of its subscription service at Whole Foods, a high-end grocer it acquired last year.

The company said prime members will get an extra 10% off the hundreds of items already on sale throughout the store, and the company will offer a deep discount every week on best-selling items.

The ongoing battle between Walmart and Amazon is going well beyond retail with Walmart having to partner with several tech firms in the past few months to better compete its rival.

It purchased Jet.com in 2016 to advance its ecommerce efforts and as if that was not enough, it embraced numerous collaborations such as Japan’s Rakuten for Kobo e-readers; and Uber, Lyft, and Postmates for grocery delivery.

In July, Walmart announced that it switched its entire cloud operation to Microsoft Azure and Office 365, in addition to working with the company on artificial intelligence projects in a new five-year deal.

Walmart reportedly has plans to transform its Vudu subsidiary into a legitimate Amazon Prime Video competitor by the end of the year and maintains two tech incubators in California and Texas, designed to cashier-less stores, personal shopping services and other areas including artificial intelligence and computer vision.

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