NATIONAL REPORT — Grocery retailers are expanding their autonomous delivery initiatives in various markets.
For example, Amazon is now piloting delivery via fully electric vehicles, each the size of a small cooler, in the Seattle metropolitan area. Amazon Scout vehicles move at a walking pace and serve a neighborhood in Snohomish County, Wash., reported Convenience Store News sister publication Progressive Grocer.
The six-vehicle pilot program offers delivery Monday through Friday during the daytime. The deliveries will be fulfilled by either a robot or human worker. Scout units were designed to safely and efficiently navigate around pets, pedestrians and anything else in its path, but will initially be followed by human workers to ensure they can truly perform their tasks unassisted, according to Amazon.
To receive delivery via Amazon Scout, eligible customers place their orders as they normally would — on the Amazon mobile app or through Amazon.com — and choose the same delivery options they would usually select.
"We are happy to welcome Amazon Scout to our growing suite of innovative delivery solutions for customers and look forward to taking the learnings from this first neighborhood so Amazon Scout can, over time, provide even more sustainability and convenience to customer deliveries," said Sean Scott, vice president of Amazon Scout.
Moving to the other side of the country, the greater Boston area will gain access to groceries delivered via self-driving electric vehicles when Stop & Shop launches the service in the spring. Customers will be able to choose from a selection of Stop & Shop produce, meal kits and convenience items for delivery, Progressive Grocer also reported.
The grocer is partnering with with San Francisco-based startup Robomart and could potentially expand its footprint beyond the existing brick-and-mortar footprint.
"This is one way in which we're leveraging new technology to make shopping easier for our customers — by essentially bringing the store to them," said Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan. "We also recognize that many of our customers want the opportunity to make their own choices when it comes to fresh produce, and we're proud to be the first retailer to engage with Robomart to address our customers' needs with their cutting-edge solution."
Robotmart's electric vehicles are remotely piloted from a Robomart facility and restocked throughout their journeys. To use the service, customers:
- Summon the vehicle via mobile app;
- Unlock the vehicle's doors and select the products they wish to buy when it arrives; and
- Close the vehicle's doors, sending it on its way.
They will be charged and emailed a receipt based on RFID and computer vision records of products removed.
"For decades, consumers had the convenience of their local greengrocer and milkman coming door to door, and we believe that by leveraging driverless technology, we can recreate that level of convenience and accessibility," said Ali Ahmed, founder and CEO of Robomart. "We're extremely excited to bring our vision to life with Stop & Shop, one of the most pioneering and forward-thinking grocery chains in the world."
Other retailers that have announced plans for autonomous delivery include Walmart, which is piloting grocery deliver in Surprise, Ariz., through a partnership with Udelv, a Burlingame, Calif.-based technology company that offers an end-to-end autonomous delivery solution; and The Kroger Co., which teamed with Nuro, the Mountain View, Calif.-based developer of the world's first fully unmanned road vehicle, to debut its service in Scottsdale, Ariz. Since then, it expanded the program's fleet to include Nuro's R1 custom unmanned vehicle, which travels public roads and carries no drivers or passengers, Convenience Store News previously reported.
Convenience Store News and Progressive Grocer are properties of EnsembleIQ.