- Kroger plans to deploy a fleet of driverless trucks from autonomous vehicle supplier Gatik to transport goods between an automated e-commerce warehouse in Dallas and multiple grocery stores in that market, the companies said Wednesday.
- The retailer plans to begin using the 20-foot trucks for several delivery trips per day beginning during the second quarter of the year.
- Autonomous middle-mile delivery could become a key piece of Kroger’s automated e-commerce fulfillment network, which distributes online orders between the company’s customer fulfillment centers (CFCs), spoke facilities and grocery stores.
Kroger expects that the autonomous trucks will enable it to fulfill e-commerce orders more nimbly while cutting costs and providing dedicated capacity for moving products between facilities, according to the announcement.
The grocer plans to operate the Class 3-6 vehicles, which can handle items that need to be kept refrigerated or frozen as well as ambient-temperature goods, seven days a week in the Dallas area. Kroger opened the CFC that will prepare orders for delivery via the Gatik trucks last year as part of its rollout of a nationwide network of robotic order-assembly hubs based on technology developed by Ocado.
As it builds out its automated e-commerce fulfillment network alongside Ocado, Kroger will rack up considerable mileage ferrying goods between its CFCs, spokes, company stores and consumers’ homes. Automating the delivery process promises to save money over time. Already, Kroger has been experimenting with driverless home delivery, having partnered with Nuro to transport grocery deliveries to shoppers in Arizona and Texas. Kroger is also an investor in Nuro.
Gatik co-founder and CEO Gautam Narang said in the announcement that the company’s arrangement to provide autonomous trucks to Kroger “came together very quickly,” without indicating when the companies decided to work with one another.
“We’re deeply familiar with operating our autonomous fleet within the Dallas ecosystem, and we’re very excited to bring that experience to support Kroger in its mission to reshape the future of goods delivery,” Narang said in a statement.
Driverless trucks are permitted to operate on roads in Texas by legislation enacted in 2017 by lawmakers in the state.
Kroger is following several other companies in opting to work with Gatik to manage middle-mile logistics.
Walmart and Gatik announced in late 2021 that the retailer had started moving goods on driverless trucks in its hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas, describing the collaboration as the first time a truck without a safety driver had been used to transport products on a commercial route linking commercial facilities.
Last August, Gatik announced that it would supply autonomous trucks to logistics provider Pitney Bowes for use in the company’s e-commerce operations in Dallas, starting in the first quarter of 2023. And in October, Canadian grocery chain Loblaw started using autonomous trucks from Gatik to move goods for its online pickup and delivery service in Toronto.
Gatik has delivered about 500,000 orders since starting commercial operations in 2019, according to the announcement.