Kroger Starts Driverless Delivery Test in Arizona, GM Targets 2019


Kroger teems up with Nuro, a car with no steering wheel or brake pedals, for driverless delivery in Arizona.

The driverless naysayers are looking sillier and sillier as Kroger Begins Tests of Driverless Grocery Delivery in Arizona.

>U.S. supermarket operator Kroger Co said it will start testing driverless grocery delivery on Thursday with technology partner Nuro at a single Fry’s Food Store in Scottsdale, Arizona.

>Kroger and rival Walmart Inc each have teamed up with autonomous vehicle companies in a bid to lower the high-cost of “last-mile” deliveries to customer doorsteps, as online retailer rolls out free Whole Foods delivery for subscribers to its Prime perks program.

>The first phase of the test will use a fleet of Toyota Prius cars equipped with Nuro technology. Those cars have seats for humans who can override autonomous systems in the event of an error or emergency. Nuro’s R1 driverless delivery van, which has no seats, will begin testing this autumn, the companies said.

No Seats, No Steering Wheel, No Brake Pedals

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Also consider Two Ex-Google Engineers Built an Entirely Different Kind of Self-Driving Car

>A new startup that proposes a different spin on autonomous transportation came out of stealth today. The company, called Nuro, was founded by two former lead Google engineers who worked on the famed self-driving car project. Unlike the plethora of self-driving startups out there, Nuro isn’t focused on reconfiguring robot taxis or autonomous trucks, but on designing a new type of vehicle altogether.

>Nuro is focused on deliveries, specifically the kind that are low-speed, local, and last-mile: groceries, laundry, or your take-out order from Seamless. The startup thinks that automating these services could help shoulder the sharp increase in last-mile deliveries, while also reducing traffic accidents and boosting local businesses who are looking for ways to thrive and compete in the age of Amazon.

>A peek through the windshield will also reveal the complete absence of traditional controls like steering wheels, foot pedals, and gear shifts. There’s no driver seat because humans were not meant to operate this vehicle.

>While it works out the kinks in its drone delivery project, Amazon is also considering using self-driving robots, having just filed a patent for an autonomous ground vehicle. Toyota unveiled its bizarre “e-palette” concept at CES this year. Meanwhile, Starship Technologieshas sidewalk-only delivery robots making trips in California, Washington, DC, Germany, and the UK. Last year, Ford Motor Company teamed up with Domino’s to deliver pizza via a self-driving car. And later today, a Northern Californian startup called Udelv is demonstratingwhat it calls “the world’s first public-road autonomous delivery test,” in which a self-driving van (with human safety driver) will deliver goods from the high-end Draeger’s Market chain in the Bay Area city of San Mateo.

>There are some challenges to Nuro’s business model, specifically how customers will receive their deliveries from the self-driving delivery pod. No driver means no one to ring your doorbell or trudge up four flights of stairs to hand over your pad thai. Ferguson says he envisions customers using — what else? — an app to inform them when the vehicle has arrived in front of their building or in their driveway. They would then be given a code that pops open the vehicle’s side hatches so they can retrieve their items. They are also considering using facial recognition technology. But what’s to prevent people from stealing someone else’s deliveries? There are still a lot of details that need to be worked out, Ferguson acknowledged.

GM Targets 2019

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GM Says Car With No Steering Wheel Or Pedals Ready For Streets In 2019

>General Motors says it is ready to mass-produce a self-driving car that has no steering wheel, pedals or any other manual controls.

>The car company said Friday that it has filed a petition with the Department of Transportation for the fourth-generation Cruise AV to hit the streets in 2019.

>GM maintains that the car "will comply with federal safety laws;" the petition is asking for a waiver for laws that it cannot meet "because they are human-driver-based-requirements."

>For example: "A car without a steering wheel can't have a steering wheel airbag," as GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge.

>Some critics, such as Jalopnik's Jason Torchinsky, have suggested GM should have been more experimental: "There's just no reason to keep these rigid interior design rules when you're not required (or able) to drive! ... There should at least be an option to swivel the front seats around, or allow the seats to all face inwardly."

>It'll be possible for humans to stop the car – GM says customers having an emergency "may end the ride by making a stop request, and the vehicle will pull to the side of the road at the next available safe place."

>The cars are undergoing testing on the roads of San Francisco and the Phoenix suburbs. GM says San Francisco provides rigorous challenges to the vehicles – for example, in the Northern California city it faces more than 7 times more emergency vehicles than in Phoenix.

It's Happening

Driverless is clearly happening.

While I consider grocery delivery a niche, the important point is another player besides Waymo has cars that are street-ready without humans, unlike Uber.

Ford joins that group in 2019.

Again, the most logical place for driverless vehicles to take hold quickly are airport taxi shuttles and long haul truck driving on interstates. The latter will take off quickly once the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) grants approval and USDOT is committed to the project with a Comprehensive Management Plan for Automated Vehicle Initiatives.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (17)
No. 1-9

In the link, especially with the "override" I don't see where ti will have no steering wheel or brake pedal. Meanwhile, So the Crony USDOT will approve unsafe trucks to run in bad weather over treacherous mountain roads and not know about runaway truck ramps? This will be interesting until the first death occurs.


Not terribly excited except for autonomous sleeper-bed car that transfers me to remote location painlessly before waking. Won't be first adopter. Otherwise can see value in autonomous office-vehicle converting 30-60 minute commutes into work hours.


Personally, I am looking forward to the adoption of all manner of self-driving vehicles and the benefits they will provide. However, I am not as optimistic as Mish on how quickly they will be adopted. I expect that it will be a minimum 10 years before I purchase a self-driving vehicle.


"the most logical place for driverless vehicles to take hold quickly are airport taxi shuttles and long haul truck driving on interstates. The latter will take off quickly..."

What happens when a tire blows and, oblivious, the truck drives another 300 miles, creating the friction that causes it to catch fire? If a hub seal breaks, leaking all it's oil and the entire tandem catches on fire, how does the computer know? Please reference current technology and not hypotheticals solely meant to defend your ego.

If that happens now, the driver is fired for negligence. You better believe he has skin in the game.

In your desire for reality to match your Star Trek fantasies, you've just created a disaster moving at 65 MPH down the interstate next to innocents who didn't sign up for this additional risk.


What Nuro, and previously Otto, was doing, is likely the way forward for those wanting to last in the AV game once the "hype lifts all dopes" Buck Rogers phase starts getting a bit trite: Pick a low hanging fruit, then focus on that.

I'm with Mish on Interstate long haul being one such. Nuro's vision of, on account of Amazonization, a rapidly expanding market, with attendant emergent choke points, for last-mile deliveries, seems like a possible winner as well.

When what you are trying to do is hard to begin with, it really pays off to be able to limit the initial scope you are trying to bite over, as much as possible. Attempting to build an "autonomous car" in the truly general sense; as in, some robot that can replace all and every conceivable things a human may ever feel like doing with a car, is just silly. It may work as a sales pitch to less than literate hypesters and Fed welfare recipients, but that's about as far as it will go for the foreseeable future. How do you even begin testing, to ensure your robotdriver behaves appropriately when engaged in running gun battles through downtown Manhattan....

If someone like Nuro, or a Son-of-Otto, can gain genuine commercial foothold in even the tiniest niche, it will be a huge win for the whole field, compared to today's state of just peddling mindless hype to the hopelessly gullible. And from there, the learnings generated from that/those initial experience(s) can slowly (or quickly..) be used to expand outward from the initial niche. Rinse and repeat. Until a larger and larger share of car travel takes place in an AV.

But you have to start somewhere. Some niche, however tiny. And, within that niche, the AV needs to be genuinely commercially useful. As in, lower in total cost than all non-AV alternatives. Until that day, none of it is any more than lab experiments and stunts.

As an aside: For real usefulness, I suspect the AV would need to be cheaper in largely unregulated markets. Operating cost in suburban Phoenix and San Francisco, is likely too dependent on specifics of regulation and legislation, to give all that accurate pointers about the cost effectiveness of the tech itself. Think Tesla subsidies.... Commercial viability in Djakarta, or Harare, would carry a lot more weight for genuine, global usefulness. But still, you have to start somewhere....


Who unloads the vehicle once it reaches its destination? I often have packages delivered with no one home, with a note to leave the package at the back door, etc. If the recipient is expected to unload their own packages whats to stop them (or someone walking by) taking packages that aren't theirs?


There certainly is a ton of companies around the world sinking billions into trying to figure this out.


Another year, another test. Seems like we're perpetually a year away from actual use.


Mish also thinks we have a reliable strategic missile defense system. Scotty, beam Mish up.

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