Grocery Retail Ups Its Autonomous Delivery Game


Get ready for autonomous grocery delivery — at least that’s the message from autonomous delivery services provider Udelv.

The California-based firm reportedly has “signed yet another partner to launch a new pilot of its self-driving goods delivery service: Texas-based supermarket chain H-E-B. The pilot will provide service to customers in Olmos Park, just outside of downtown San Antonio where the grocery retailer is based,” according to TechCrunch.

That report goes on to say that Udelv “will provide H-E-B with one of its Newton second-generation autonomous delivery vehicles, which are already in service in trials in the Bay Area, Arizona and Houston, providing deliveries on behalf of some of Udelv’s other clients, which include Walmart, among others.”

Kroger Push

The move is only the latest effort to up the grocery delivery game via the use of autonomous delivery. For instance, Kroger Co., the grocery retailer, and Nuro, the SoftBank-backed robotics company, announced in March the launch of their autonomous grocery delivery service in Houston.

In a press release, the companies said the service will be available through two Houston Kroger stores, reaching customers residing in four local ZIP codes.

“We’ve seen firsthand in Arizona how enthusiastic customers are about getting their Kroger groceries delivered by a Nuro self-driving vehicle,” said Nuro Co-Founder Dave Ferguson in the press release. “Texas has been a leader in encouraging self-driving innovation, and we’re excited to help deliver that future for Houston — a dynamic, diverse and welcoming metropolitan city that we’re excited to soon explore and serve with this autonomous delivery service.”

IoT Connection

Autonomous and connected vehicles promise to upend the grocery industry, at least going by ongoing plans and tests, and as demonstrated by PYMNTS research. Consumers are looking for faster ways to get their goods and services — and that’s where Internet of Things (IoT) devices like connected cars come in.

Connected cars could have a profound impact on the way consumers have goods delivered, especially when it comes to sectors like grocery — one of the last areas where in-store shopping is holding fast over its eCommerce competition. An IoT-connected car with real-time tracking and updates could solve that issue, said Pradeep Elankumaran, CEO and co-founder of digital grocer Farmstead, in a recent interview with PYMNTS.

The connected car could not only add a level of consumer comfort when it comes to traffic updates and delivery estimates, but provide a faster way for customers to receive their groceries, Elankumaran said in this month’s feature story.

As for Udelv, the report noted that the company is “excited to be partnering with H-E-B because of the company’s reach in Texas, where it’s the largest grocery chain with approximately 400 stores. This initial phase only covers one car and one store, and during this part of the pilot the vehicle will have a safety driver on board. But the plan includes the option to expand the partnership to cover more vehicles and eventually achieve full driverless operation.”

Grocery retail is among the hot spots of ongoing retail innovation, and that includes delivery.


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