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Driverless grocery delivery could be coming to Fry’s stores in Arizona

FILE- This undated photo provided by The Kroger Co. shows a driverless car that the Cincinnati-based company is about to test whether it can steer supermarket customers away from crowded grocery aisles with a fleet of diminutive driverless cars designed to lower delivery costs. The test program announced Thursday, June 28, 2018, could make Kroger the first U.S. grocer to make deliveries with robotic cars that won't have a human riding along to take control in case something goes wrong. (Andrew Brown/The Kroger Co. via AP, File)

PHOENIX – We all know about the self-driving car programs operating in Arizona, but what about self-driving groceries?

Kroger Co. could soon be testing a delivery service in Arizona using small driverless vehicles designed by Nuro, a Silicon Valley startup.

Cincinnati-based Kroger, which owns Fry’s grocery stores in Arizona, announced Thursday the service would start by the end of this year.

Nuro co-founder Dave Ferguson said testing is likely to involve Fry’s in Arizona or California, although specific locations have yet to be confirmed.

Customers will be able to order groceries from a mobile app, much like people summon an Uber or Lyft ride. After the order is placed, a driverless vehicle will deliver the groceries at a curb, requiring the customers to be present to fetch the items. The vehicles will probably be opened with a numeric code.

Kroger currently offers grocery delivery in vehicles driven by people at about 1,200 of its 2,800 stores, covering about 20 markets in the U.S.

If the Nuro tests go well, Kroger said it is likely to expand its use of driverless cars, potentially allowing its grocery stores to reduce its delivery fees and reassign workers who had been driving cars to other jobs focused on improving customer service.

Nuro was started two years ago by two engineers who had been working on the Google self-driving car project now known as Waymo.

Waymo, which has a large presence in the Phoenix area, has said it would be starting a self-driving taxi service in the Valley sometime this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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