As part of its recent partnership with retailing giant Kroger, Nuro is set to test a delivery service using autonomous vehicles. If the initial test phase, limited to a store in Arizona, proves to be a success, R1 robots created by the US start-up could then be used to deliver to Kroger customers throughout the country.
On 18 December, Nuro announced via its Medium.com blog that an R1 autonomous delivery robot was about to make its first deliveries. The device manufactured by the US start-up made its first appearance in the city of Scottsdale, Arizona, delivering to the home of a customer of Fry’s Food Store run by Kroger, according to French website Usine-Digitale. This experiment was part of a partnership concluded in June 2018 between Nuro and the retail chain.
R1 – an autonomous robot controlled by an operator
The Nuro R1 is bigger than the robots designed by other start-ups Kiwi and Postmates, with two large compartments designed to store large quantities of merchandise. It can only run on smaller roads at a top speed of 40 km/h, and will initially be able to make deliveries within a radius of 1.6 kilometres.
The R1 does not have a cockpit on board for a driver, but an operator can take control remotely at any time, according to Nuro. During the test phase, the robots will therefore be followed by a second vehicle with a driver – a precaution which will no longer be necessary once the technology has proved its effectiveness.
Delivery method could become standard for Kroger
Delivery by R1 is very simple: once the customer has purchased their shopping on line, they receive a message telling them that their delivery is on the way. A second message is then sent when the vehicle is close to the delivery address, and a third then provides them with a code enabling them to unlock the vehicle and obtain their purchases.
If the test proves conclusive, other R1s will be added to the fleet of autonomous Toyota Prius vehicles already being used by Nuro and which, admittedly with an operator still on board, have already made almost 1,000 deliveries. In time, retailing giant Kroger, which has 2,800 points of sale across the USA, could make this a standard delivery method.
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