Shares of Kroger Co.  (KR) were hammered last year at the threat of Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) .

As if the latter's private-label brands and increasing focus on food delivery weren't a terrifying enough combination, the e-commerce juggernaut acquired Whole Foods Market for just over $13 billion.

That put a serious target on grocers like Kroger and many others.

Alas, stocks like Kroger have bounced back from their 2017 lows about a year ago and they're looking at ways of fighting back, too. For its part, Kroger has turned to customer-oriented options like online ordering and acquiring Home Chef, a meal-delivery company.

There were rumors about a possible tie-up with Target Corp.  (TGT) , a partnership with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.  (BABA) and an attempted purchase of Boxed for $400 million, an online wholesale delivery startup.

Now though? Kroger is working with Nuro to offer same-day delivery to local customers via an autonomous vehicle. That's right, Kroger is getting into the self-driving car race...albeit, in a slightly different way than most others.

The duo plans to launch the pilot program this fall and have it continue for several months. Although the market or markets that Kroger and Nuro plan to test haven't been announced yet. The vehicles are intended for shorter trips and have two compartments that can hold up to six bags of groceries apiece.

Kroger's acquisition of Home Chef shows it's trying to stay competitive in a quickly-changing market.
Kroger's acquisition of Home Chef shows it's trying to stay competitive in a quickly-changing market.

Will it work? It's still way too early to say. While we've seen other pilots -- either by third-party delivery companies in places like San Francisco or by companies like Domino's Pizza (DPZ) -- it could be awhile before Kroger and Nuro have the technology to deliver the goods in relatively error-free fashion.

In fact, there are a number of issues still surrounding the autonomous driving industry, mainly with getting the vehicles to Level 4 and 5 autonomy. Can it be done? Surely and many within the industry believe that they will accomplish such a feat within a few years. Given that Audi is ready to put Level 3 autonomous driving features into a production vehicle (the A8) in 2018 shows that Level 4 may not be too far off. 

Alphabet's (GOOG) (GOOGL) Waymo is already looking to expand its robo-taxi service into Europe and Tesla Inc.  (TSLA) is making solid progress with its autonomous efforts, too. From both Alphabet and Nvidia Corporation (NVDA) , we've learned that synthetic testing environments are helping to drive exponential progress in the autonomous driving landscape, which - regulations aside - all but guarantees the technology will be ready before many consumers might expect. 

Incidentally, if one were to investigate some of the 370 partners Nvidia has for its autonomous driving efforts, they would find Nuro on the list. Given Nvidia's advances in self-driving applications, that bodes well for Nuro and thus, for Kroger. If it's able to deliver, Kroger and others may have a way to fight back against Amazon and other disruptors. 

Alphabet and Nvidia are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells GOOGL or NVDA? Learn more now.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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