Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Driverless grocery delivery sounds pretty cool, but what about having a part of the store itself roll up outside your home so you can just grab what you need without ordering beforehand?

That’s the idea behind Robomart’s driverless grocery store. That’s right, a grocery store on wheels. The California-based company has teamed up with grocery chain Stop & Shop for a trial run of the service in Boston, Massachusetts in the spring.

It works like this: You summon the mobile grocery store using an app. When it turns up outside your door, simply tap in a code on the vehicle to unlock its doors. Finally, grab what you like from the selection of everyday items and meal kits, and you’re all set.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and computer vision smarts automatically record your selections, enabling a checkout-free experience. Yes, in that sense it’s a bit like an Amazon Go store … on wheels.

The cost of your shop is automatically charged to your connected account, and a digital receipt is sent to your smartphone within seconds.

“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,” Stop & Shop president Mark McGowan said in a release.

McGowan also notes how some shoppers prefer to make their own selections when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables, rather than have someone else pick it out for them as in the case of regular grocery delivery platforms.

Robomart’s autonomous vehicles are powered by battery and monitored remotely from a Robomart facility. The vehicles will be restocked with fresh Stop & Shop items throughout the day to ensure customers aren’t met with empty shelves when the store arrives. It’s not clear at this stage how many Robomart vehicles will be hitting the streets when the service goes live in the next couple of months.

Admittedly, the selection of items is going to be very limited compared to a regular grocery delivery setup where you order online, but Robomart’s driverless mobile store could prove popular with those who are uncomfortable with online shopping, as customers need only tap a request button on the app to summon the vehicle to their home.

It’s early days for Robomart’s autonomous mobile store, but the trial with Stop & Shop will give the team a chance to see how the concept fares against competitors who are using driverless vehicles for regular grocery deliveries, though the two services could of course complement each other.

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