We've seen quite a bit of innovation in the grocery industry lately. Companies like Amazon popularized the concept of same-day and next-day grocery delivery, prompting even physical store chains like Target to implement similar systems.
Furthermore, in January, Amazon introduced their first checkout-free grocery store, Amazon Go. The store lets customers merely walk in, grab the items they want, and walk out; their accounts will be charged after the fact.
Customer convenience is at the heart of all of these new grocery advances, and now the nation's largest supermarket chain, Kroger, is pushing that idea even further.
As reported by The Verge, the corporation is working together with Nuro, a two-year-old self-driving car startup, to create a completely driverless grocery delivery service. According to the outlet, a pilot version of this service will be available in an unknown city sometime this fall.
The service is simple, in theory. Customers will place their orders via Kroger's official website, track it using Nuro's dedicated app, and use their thumbprint, or another form of verification, to access their orders.
Naturally, the orders will be stored in temperature-controlled conditions, to prevent food from spoiling or melting while in transit. Interestingly, customers will need to unload their groceries themselves when one of Nuro's autonomous vehicles arrives in their driveway.
During the pilot testing program, Nuro's vehicles will be manned by trained test drivers, but these drivers will not get out to help customers unload their orders.
"We’re trying to strike the right balance so we can give you a sense of what the service will be like when there are no people," Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson said in a statement to The Verge. "Not to seem like there’s an able-bodied person not helping you with your groceries."
As exciting as this idea sounds, neither Kroger or Nuro are willing to say when the program will launch for the general public.