Ice House

Kroger Now Has a Self-Driving Delivery Car

We made a few Houston-specific modifications to it.

By Abby Ledoux May 24, 2019 Published in the June 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

We’re still waiting on that flying car, but we finally have one that can ... deliver our groceries? Okay, we’ll take it. This spring, Kroger partnered with robotics company Nuro to launch autonomous grocery delivery in Houston, starting with the stores on South Post Oak and Buffalo Speedway. That makes us the second market for this service, which debuted to great success last year in Scottsdale, Arizona.

It works in the same way the store’s regular delivery service does—shop online or through the Kroger app, select your time slot for same- or next-day delivery, and voilà. Currently only available to residents of four zip codes—77401, 77096, 77005, and 77025—the service carries a $5.95 flat fee, with no minimum order. Translation? Those lucky residents can conceivably demand a robot bring a pint of Blue Bell Cookie Two Step right to their door in the middle of the night.

For now Nuro’s fleet of self-driving Priuses will be making the grocery runs. But later this year the tech company—founded, by the way, by former Google engineers—will introduce the next gen of its custom-built vehicle, the R1, to our streets. First used in Arizona, it’s a squat, futuristic-looking thing we’re pretty sure we saw on Black Mirror. It’s actually kinda cute. But is the R1 Houston? It can be, with a few modifications. Are you listening, Nuro nerds?

1️⃣ Rocket-red candy paint, in homage to our city’s proud slab culture.

2️⃣ Swangas—even the Harris County Sheriff’s Office added a set to its patrol car, albeit temporarily.

3️⃣ A top-notch speaker system blasting Paul Wall’s “Sittin Sidewayz” at full volume on a loop, to leave no question as to “the undisputed king of the parking lot."

4️⃣ Radar detection, for maneuvering around crater-like potholes.

5️⃣ A camera that will photograph potholes and generate 3-1-1 reports with exact GPS coordinates, which are automatically sent to the city.

6️⃣ An inflatable rim, which expands around the vehicle’s chassis to render it buoyant at the first sign of heavy rain.

7️⃣ A 100 Club bumper sticker, if for no other reason than to fit in.

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