Stop & Shop, a supermarket company with more than 400 locations in several US states, has announced plans to launch autonomous grocery vehicles in the greater Boston area starting this spring. This is part of a new collaboration between Stop & Shop and Robomart, a San Francisco-based startup that creates self-driving stores in vehicles.
What they’re offering is more than a delivery service, it’s the ability to bring the store to you and to select your produce at your doorstep. Stop & Shop customers will be able to summon a vehicle via the app, unlock the vehicle’s doors, and hand-pick the items they want. You then simply close the EV’s doors, and it will be on its way. The vehicle then uses RFID and computer vision technology to record what you selected and automatically bill you. Items such as produce, meal kits, and other assorted convenience items will be available for purchase.
As GlobeNewswire reported, Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan said, “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.” Robomart co-founder and CEO Ali Ahmed commented, “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.”
Robomart electric vehicles are equipped with driverless tech, and will eventually be fully autonomous. Initially, public pilot programs will be remotely driven via teleoperations to ensure safety. Each vehicle uses an RFID and computer vision based checkout-free system, as well as specific temperature control and refrigeration to keep produce fresh. The 2019 launch of the Robomart fleet with Stop & Stop will be the company’s first commercial program.