Self-Driving Mobile Grocery May Hit the Road this Summer

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Searching for an alternative to online home delivery?

Your search may be over.  A self-driving mobile grocery store called “Robomart” may be available for a test drive as early as this summer, according to Retail Leader.

In fact, the autonomous mobile grocery store called “Robomart” could make its U.S. debut as early as this summer if Robomart founder Ali Ahmed has his way.

Ahmed and Robomart are building a fleet of fully autonomous, on-demand, self-driving stores to license to retailers, who would be responsible for stocking fresh produce and other groceries inside. Consumers just tap a button and the driverless store comes to them, so they can pick out groceries just steps from their front door, and be charged automatically for their selections.

According to Food Dive, Ahmed is hoping to tap into one of the main problems affecting the food retailing world: while fresh produce accounts for a larger percentage of food retailers’ overall sales, only about 5% of sales have moved online, because consumers think it’s either too expensive or they don’t trust a third party to pick out their produce.

And the idea of a market that travels to shoppers has an undeniable appeal. The growth of home delivery has shown consumers like having their groceries brought to them, and this new method allows customers to hand-pick their produce.

But there are questions as to its scalability, and there could be issues with restocking and even shoplifting. Other drawbacks include limited selection — currently, the market on wheels can house between 50 and 100 different items. And there could be lengthy wait times — the Robomart has a range of 80 miles and can only go 25 miles per hour.

Food Dive speculates that Amazon or Wal-Mart, or both, may try to duplicate a similar model. Walmart, in particular, has shown its willingness to experiment in an effort to crack the last-mile equation, piloting delivery with Uber as well as delivery by store employees after their shifts are over. Considering both mega companies filed a patent in 2017 for a futuristic floating warehouse concept, a drivable mini-market wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

The California-based Robomart unveiled its prototype at CES in Las Vegas. Toyota on Monday took the wraps off the e-Palette, a self-driving vehicle, and said it is partnering with Pizza Hut on using it for deliveries. Ford, meanwhile, announced a partnership with Postmates, a Silicon Valley delivery service, to test delivery in its self-driving cars.

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