There's still considerable debate about how desirable the concept of a truly driverless car is, but not many of us will find much to object to in the idea of driverless delivery vehicles. These might get to our roads even before autonomous passenger vehicles, as serious testing of one such service gets underway in Scottsdale, Arizona. The American supermarket company Kroger is partnering with technology startup Nuro to trial a driverless delivery service from a single Fry's Food Store in Scottsdale.
Kroger isn't the only company of this type looking into implementing this kind of technology -- as the industry tries to lower the high cost of what are called "last-mile" deliveries to customers' homes, Walmart has also teamed up with an autonomous vehicle developer in Phoenix, Arizona.
Traditional grocery retailers are particularly keen to develop the technology in the face of the new threat from Amazon. The online retail giant has rolled out a free Whole Foods delivery service for customers who subscribe to its Prim perks program.
Yael Cosset, Kroger's Chief Digital Officer, said of the trial, "Kroger wants to bring more customers the convenience of affordable grocery delivery," confirming that the test was intended to gauge what the level of customer demand may be for such a service.
The first phase of the trial will begin this week, using a fleet of Toyota Prius models equipped with Nuro driverless technology. These vehicles have seats to accommodate people, who can override the autonomous system in case of an error or emergency.
A delivery from the Scottsdale Fry's store via one of the driverless Toyotas will cost $5.95 with no minimum order, but it will only be available within the zip code of the store in question. If all goes well, the trial will start using Nuro R1 driverless delivery vans with no seats from the autumn.