USA – Kroger, one of the largest supermarket chains in the US in partnership with autonomous technology start up Nuro, is set to trial an on-demand autonomous grocery delivery service in the US beginning this year.

With the use of Nuro’s autonomous vehicles, Kroger will allow customers to order their groceries through its ClickList ordering system or Nuro app to be delivered on the same day.

Once an order is received, store employees are mandated to load the groceries into the temperature controlled compartments in Nuro’s self-driving cars and dispatch the vehicle, with customers able to track it in the app.

On arrival customers will walk up to it, verify their identity with a password or form of biometric authentication, and retrieve their groceries.

Few Kroger customers will be able to benefit from the autonomous delivery, and in some states where unsupervised self-driving cars haven’t been legalized, the start-up will need to gain the approval of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The supermarket giant claims the pilot program set to begin this year, will be done in a city yet to be named.

“We are incredibly excited about the potential of our innovative partnership with Nuro to bring the future of grocery delivery to customers today.

“As part of Restock Kroger, we have already started to redefine the grocery customer experience and expand the coverage area for our anything, anytime and anywhere offering.

“Partnering with Nuro, a leading technology company, will create customer value by providing Americans access to fast and convenient delivery at a fair price,” said Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief digital officer.

A competitive advantage

The robot vans are self-driving vehicles which looks like a toaster on wheels with an aim to accelerate the benefits of robotics while giving Kroger a mileage in grocery deliveries, at a better competitive advantage than rivals.

While Nuro has a chance to promote its technology, Kroger is boosting its ecommerce stronghold ahead of Amazon who in the recent past has signalled the possibilities of robotic delivery service since it purchased Whole Foods grocery.

Amazon has also applied for a patent for a sidewalk rolling delivery robot which unlike Kroger’s, carries items from a delivery truck to a person’s front door.

Commenting on the matter, Dave Ferguson, co-Founder of Nuro said, “Unmanned delivery will be a game-changer for local commerce, and together with Kroger, we’re thrilled to test this new delivery experience to bring grocery customers new levels of convenience and value.

“Our safe, reliable, and affordable service, combined with Kroger’s ubiquitous brand, is a powerful first step in our mission to accelerate the benefits of robotics for everyday life.”

The move further boosts Kroger’s home delivery capabilities after signing an exclusive distribution agreement with Ocado this year.

Kroger also recently completed the acquisition of Home Chef, a meal kit and food delivery company.