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H-E-B latest grocer to test driverless delivery

San Antonio-based H-E-B is following in the path of major grocery players such as Kroger and Walmart with a new delivery pilot.

Later this year, H-E-B will launch a test of delivery service from a vehicle with self-driving technology. The retailer will use one autonomous van with driverless technology, which will serve customers near its Olmos Park store, north of downtown San Antonio.

H-E-B will perform the pilot with one autonomous delivery vehicle (ADV) from California-based startup Udelv. The ADV has climate-controlled compartments that can hold multiple orders of fresh, frozen and dry goods, and can travel at city street and highway speeds.

During the first phase of the pilot, the ADV will have a driver. If the initiative is expanded, the retailer will implement a multi-phased roll out to give the technology time to learn the safest, most efficient routes, which will eventually lead to the ADV becoming fully driverless. Select customers can sign up to receive deliveries from the autonomous vehicle during the test period.

“At H-E-B, we continue to evaluate and utilize innovative technologies in all parts of our business,” said Paul Tepfenhart, senior VP of omnichannel and emerging technologies at Central Market and H-E-B. “As a leading digital-retail leader in Texas, we will continue to grow our Partner population as well as technology presence to complement our store operations, enabling customers to choose how they shop, pay for and receive products.”

This trial is part of efforts to integrate more technology-based services into H-E-B’s digital lineup. Along with its Favor on-demand delivery service, H-E-B continues to expand e-commerce offerings such as H-E-B Curbside and H-E-B Home Delivery, which are expected to be at over 200 locations by year’s end, and H-E-B Go, a mobile solution that allows people to scan and pay for their items with their phones.

Driverless delivery is becoming one of the hottest emerging technology trends in the grocery sector. The Kroger Co. is piloting self-driving grocery delivery service using autonomous vehicles from Nuro in two markets.

Meanwhile, Walmart has been testing grocery delivery with Udelv autonomous vans since January, while Stop & Shop is piloting self-delivery vehicles from Robomart that bring a selection of shoppable grocery goods to the customer’s door. Furthermore, on-demand delivery service DoorDash is piloting the use of autonomous vehicles from GM to deliver meal and grocery orders in San Francisco.
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