TECHNOLOGY

Amazon continues to expand Whole Foods delivery service

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Customers across four more markets are now eligible for Amazon’s free two-hour delivery service from Whole Foods Markets.

The online giant on Wednesday said it has launched free two-hour delivery from Whole Foods through Prime Now in Columbus and Dayton, Ohio; Portland, Oregon, and the greater Washington D.C. region. In addition, Amazon has expanded its New York City coverage to include customers in Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Union Square and Murray Hill.

Prime members receive two-hour delivery for free and ultra-fast delivery within one hour for $7.99 on orders of $35 or more. The service, which launched in February, is now available in 28 cities.

Amazon plans to continue expanding the service across the U.S. throughout 2018, according to the company.

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TECHNOLOGY

Wegmans uses mobile technology to assist blind shoppers

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A regional supermarket retailer is taking an innovative approach to customer inclusion.

Through a partnership with San Diego-based startup Aira, Wegmans Food Markets now offers the Aira Supermarket Network, a platform that delivers real-time visual descriptions to blind customers or those with low vision — a move that enables customers to shop independently. Wegmans is the first supermarket in the United States to adopt the technology.

Here’s how the platform works: Once shoppers download the Aira app onto their smartphone, they can use it to connect to a remote, sighted agent who will deliver store information on-demand. Using a live camera stream, GPS, maps, and information sourced from the web, agents can help shoppers navigate the store, find specific items, and identify the shortest checkout lines.

The technology is free, and available in all of Wegmans’ 97 stores.

“At Wegmans, we are committed to providing incredible customer service to all our shoppers,” said Linda Lovejoy, community relations manager for Wegmans. “Our partnership with Aira helps us deliver on this commitment, giving our blind and low-vision customers access to this innovative service and the ability to navigate our stores easily and efficiently.”

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TECHNOLOGY

New ‘mobile store’ delivery service hitting the road

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The driverless grocery delivery market is getting crowded.

Self-driving car startup AutoX just got the green light to launch a grocery delivery and mobile store pilot in San Jose, California. Through a partnership with fresh produce e-commerce company GrubMarket.com, AutoX will enable consumers to order and receive fresh produce and other goods that will be delivered by self-driving cars.

Here’s how the service will work: Once customers download the AutoX app, they order fresh perishables, vegetables and fruits and other items. Groceries are preserved in a temperature-controlled driverless car. When the AutoX vehicle arrives, the window rolls down, and customers pick up their order.

The autonomous cars feature high resolution camera sensing that triggers artificial intelligence used to safely detect small objects, such as kids and pets. It also enables the vehicle to envision longer distances compared to other autonomous driving technologies that rely on laser-based detection systems.

“We are thrilled to combine the fresh and affordable grocery experience of GrubMarket with the ingenuity and delivery capabilities of AutoX,” said GrubMarket CEO Mike Xu. “We look forward to providing our customers with even more convenient delivery options.”

Other retailers are also dipping their toe into the self-driving delivery waters. In August, Kroger Co. formally launched a self-driving grocery delivery pilot at a Fry’s Food location in Scottsdale, Arizona. The launch comes several weeks after Kroger announced its partnership with tech startup Nuro, the maker of a fully unmanned vehicle.

Walmart is also putting its own spin on driverless cars. Through a partnership with Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project, Walmart is piloting Waymo vehicles to transport customers to and from a local store to pick up their groceries. The program, which is conducted out of one Walmart store in Chandler, Arizona, is being tested among a group of Waymo’s 400 daily users.

Pilot customers place an online grocery pickup order, and Walmart’s personal shoppers fulfill the order based on their designated pickup times. Waymo then transports customers to and from pickup.

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