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TECHNOLOGY

First Look: Stop & Shop puts new spin on driverless delivery

BY Dan Berthiaume

Stop & Shop is the latest grocer to test automated delivery vehicles, but is taking a unique approach.

Beginning in spring 2019, the supermarket chain will launch driverless grocery vehicles in the Greater Boston area. The vehicles, provided by San Francisco-based startup Robomart, will bring a selection of Stop & Shop produce, meal kits and convenience items directly to consumer homes.

Shoppers will be able to summon the Robomart vehicles with a smartphone app. Where this pilot will differ from other recent driverless grocery delivery programs is that customers will actually shop for goods from the vehicle. Upon the vehicle’s arrival, customers head outside, unlock its doors, then personally select the fruits, vegetables, and other products they would like to purchase.

When finished shopping, customers will close the doors and send the vehicle on its way. The vehicles’ RFID and computer vision technology will automatically record what customers select to provide a checkout-free experience, and receipts will be e-mailed within seconds. The engagement will also offer the potential for Stop & Shop to expand beyond its 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 Mark McGowan, Stop & Shop president. “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.”

Driverless delivery continues to be a burgeoning trend in grocery. Walmart is running multiple pilots in different markets with varied technology providers, most recently a program testing custom-made driverless cargo vans from Udelv in delivering groceries handpicked by Walmart personal shoppers to customers in Surprise, Arizona.

Other recent notable driverless food and grocery delivery pilots include an upcoming March 2019 joint pilot from DoorDash and General Motors’ Cruise Automation self-driving vehicle division to use autonomous vehicles to deliver meal and grocery orders in San Francisco, as well as an ongoing test of driverless delivery in Scottsdale, Arizona by Kroger.

All Robomart vehicles are autonomous, electric and will be remotely piloted from a Robomart facility. Throughout the journey, the teleoperated vehicles will be restocked with fresh Stop & Shop goods.

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