Autonomous grocery food delivery system has arrived, but will it be able to transform the way consumers do their weekly food shop and how businesses operate?

Kroger, an American supermarket chain, has begun a trial of its autonomous grocery delivery service in Scottsdale, Arizona with the goal to save consumers time and create convenience. The service currently offers shoppers same or next day delivery with no minimum order requirement and will only cost a flat fee of US$5.95. After an order has been placed, the driverless vehicle will deliver the groceries directly to the consumer where they simply go to the parked vehicle, enter a unique numeric code and take out their groceries from the opened compartment. Since this service is still in trial, the format has not been finalised yet and may change after its main launch.

This is an innovative take on food delivery but the autonomous factor is unlikely to have any major affect on how consumers do their online grocery shopping. The majority of the benefits will be reaped by the supermarket chains instead.

The use of autonomous vehicles avoids the need for drivers which creates two main benefits: cost savings and expansion. It allows grocery retailers to save on hiring and paying drivers. It also provides the opportunity to increase the number of possible deliveries since the retailer is not limited by the number of drivers they have on a particular day but by the number of vehicles they own.

Although cost saving is one of the benefits, high investment cost is also a major drawback. The initial investment in a fleet of autonomous vehicles will be incredibly high, as will the insurance required for it. Alongside this, not every state in the US – and countries worldwide –are as open to autonomous vehicles, and the public’s opinion is not always positive, hindering retailers ability to implement this service elsewhere.

Despite these drawbacks, it is likely that in the future autonomous vehicles will be the main source for all deliveries, and not just grocery food. The drawbacks mentioned will become less problematic overtime; the continuous development of this technology will eventually convince the public to accept it as well as reducing the risks involved. In the next five to ten years’ time, it will not be surprising to see fleets of autonomous vehicles delivering consumer goods to everyone’s doorsteps.

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