Kroger to begin sending robots for last-mile grocery delivery

With back-to-back announcements, the grocery giant has firmly staked out its place in the race to automate same-day order fulfillment.

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The Kroger Co.

Grocery giant Kroger just announced a pilot program to test autonomous last-mile grocery delivery in select areas.

Kroger is partnering with driverless delivery company Nuro for the test.

Same-day orders will be fulfilled by Nuro's autonomous fleet after customers within the pilot area place orders through the Nuro app or Kroger's ordering interface.

The pilot area hasn't been announced yet, but the program is expected to start this fall.

The announcement comes close on the heels Kroger's recent partnership announcement with Ocado, the leading British grocery delivery service. Kroger will use Ocado's logistics robots to prep orders for delivery.

With the addition of Nuro's fleet, Kroger is clearly looking to leap out ahead of competitors like Amazon in the race to automate same day order fulfillment.

"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," says Dave Ferguson, Co-Founder, Nuro. "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."

This is the first real-world application of Nuro's hardware and software. Unlike pint-sized last-mile delivery robots from companies like Marble and Starship Technologies, Nuro's self-driving vehicle is the size of a small car.

Founded by two ex-Google employees, the company has about $100 million in financing, and analysts expect it to make a big splash in the autonomous order fulfillment space.

Delivery robots are expected to make up a sizable portion of the global autonomous robot market, which Zion Market Research projects will be worth $12 billion by 2024.