HOUSTON — The Kroger Co. is expanding its fleet of Nuro autonomous grocery delivery vehicles to two of its Houston stores, reaching customers in four local ZIP codes.
The program was launched as a pilot in Scottsdale, Ariz., in August, covering a single ZIP code area of Fry's stores with self-driving Toyota Priuses. In late 2018, the fleet was upgraded to Nuro's custom R1 vehicles, which have now made thousands of successful deliveries.
Yael Cosset, Kroger's chief digital officer, said the Arizona pilot confirmed the "flexibility and benefits provided by autonomous vehicles" as well as customers' openness to the concept.
"It's always been our shared vision to scale this initiative to new markets, using world-changing technology to enable a new type of delivery service for our customers," Cosset said.
In fact, at Shoptalk retail conference in Las Vegas earlier this month, Dave Ferguson, co-founder and CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based Nuro, said the company's robots were earning higher Net Promoter Scores than grocery brands, including Kroger.
Net Promoter Scores measure the loyalty and growth potential of programs based on surveys about whether customers would be willing to recommend the service to a friend.
“This was an experience that taught us a huge amount—for a technical company to learn what good service looks like,” Ferguson said. “It also taught us how the public is receptive or not to an e-commerce vehicle, and what we found is that people love the service. … People are really pumped about using this.”
Ferguson said he was looking to aggressively expand Nuro's robot fleet this year.
Kroger operates 102 grocery stores in Houston. The service will be available at the 10306 S. Post Oak Road store, servicing ZIP codes 77401 and 77096; and the 5150 Buffalo Speedway store, servicing ZIP codes 77005 and 77025.
Cincinnati-based Kroger sold its nearly 800-unit convenience-store business to the U.K.-based EG Group for $2.15 billion in April 2018.