business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Houston Business Journal reports that H-E-B “plans to launch a pilot program this year to test self-driving vehicle delivery in San Antonio,” and will “deploy one autonomous van with driverless technology near its Olmos Park store, just north of downtown. As part of H-E-B's testing, it will obtain an autonomous delivery vehicle from California-based Udelv, which can travel about 60 mph and is equipped with climate-controlled compartments that can hold multiple orders of fresh, frozen and dry goods.”

The story says that “during the first phase of the H-E-B pilot in San Antonio, the ADV is expected to have a driver. If the initiative is expanded, the retailer will implement a multi-phased rollout giving the technology time to learn the safest, most efficient routes, leading to the vehicle becoming fully driverless.”

Houston seems to be becoming a hotbed of driverless delivery vehicle activity, as Kroger has expanded its own test of the technology from an initial pilot in Scottsdale, Arizona, to the Houston market. Kroger is working with a different autonomous car company, called Nuro.
KC's View:
I’ve seen a number of stories over the past month or so talking about how a lot of experts seem to feel that driverless cars technology will take longer to implement than was previously believed. For example, the New York Times says that a number of the companies working on such initiatives “had developed about 80 percent of the technology needed to put self-driving cars into routine use — the radar, cameras and other sensors that can identify objects far down roads and highways. But the remaining 20 percent, including developing software that can reliably anticipate what other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists are going to do, will be much more difficult.”

I have to believe that at least for the foreseeable future, it only will be the biggest and best funded retailers that will be able to invest in such programs. As for the rest of them, let me suggest a more radical approach. Invest inn drivers who are hired and trained to carry forth your business narrative and communicate your brand’s value/values proposition to the customers with whom they make contact.

Think of these moments as your close encounters of the best kind … the kind that drive connections and sustained loyalty.

Like I said, it is a radical approach, especially since so many retailers prefer to simply outsource these contact points to others that may or may not have the retailer’s best interests in mind.