Self-driving cars begin transporting groceries to Texas homes

First, there came self-checkout.

Now, it's self-driving cars to make the delivery.

Two Kroger markets in Houston are rolling out a self-driving car program, in which orders can be placed online and delivered right to your home without a driver.

The self-driving service will be offered at stores in South Post Oak Road and Buffalo Speedway, per ABC13. Those in Texas can access the service from the 77401, 77096, 77005 and 77025 ZIP codes, for same- or next-day delivery.

The delivery service was conceived by the robotics company Nuro, founded by two ex-Google employees. Kroger and Nuro began working together last year for a trial run in Scottsdale, Ariz., before they started this year’s expansion.

The company has reportedly completed thousands of driverless deliveries within the Arizona market.


The company aims to roll out its unmanned driverless R1 delivery vehicles in Texas within the next few weeks, but in the meantime, it'll use a Toyota Prius fleet.

"Initially, we are going to start delivering with our self-driving Prius vehicles, so these are passenger vehicles just like regular Priuses that we've added sensing and computing to so they can drive themselves," Nuro co-founder and president Dave Ferguson told ABC13. "There will still be safety drivers in them."

The R1 vehicles are about half the width and shorter than most sedans, which Nuro says will limit the potential for collisions.

"We generally feel that when you remove passengers from the vehicle, you can make it much safer for everyone else on the road," Ferguson said. "For example, our vehicle is much smaller, it's much lighter, it sort of collapses in the unlikely event of any collision."


During the Arizona trial run, some residents enjoyed the experience of seeing a small robotic car pull up with groceries.

“It was a lot smaller than I thought it would be,” Arizona resident Shannon Baggett told AP last August. “I told my husband, 'We just got our groceries delivered by a robot.'"

Other residents say they're not quite ready for this type of change.

Close up of Nuro's self-driving vehicle

Close up of Nuro's self-driving vehicle (L Kroger)

"I just don't think we are there yet to have a driverless car," local resident John Jones told ABC13.

Customers can place orders from the markets' website or app for a $5.95 fee.

Nuro will expand the number of cars fitted with self-driving hardware and software to about 50, according to Verge. It will operate in California, Arizona, and Texas with safety drivers behind the wheel.