A prototype robotic grocery store has just launched in Tel Aviv

There was a time we thought self-checkout and automatic bagging were cool grocery store innovations. Those might not have become the revolutionary automations we had hoped, but now a new innovative facility in Tel Aviv is aiming to put the Costcos and Sam’s Clubs of the world to shame with a new automated grocery delivery center that uses robots to provide product fulfillment way faster than humans ever could.

It might sound like just another widget in a string of breakthroughs like Amazon’s cashier-less convenience stores but the developer, CommonSense Robotics, has done a lot of research and gotten a lot of things right in figuring out how to deliver products in a future that is changing rapidly.

The company’s second Micro-Fulfillment Center is under construction and will be the first automated warehouse to be built and operated underground. While most warehouses are usually located out in the boonies of any given municipality, this one is going to be located on the first-floor parking level of Tel Aviv’s oldest and most iconic skyscraper, Shalom Meir Tower. The facility will service one-hour grocery deliveries from this underutilized urban real estate in a way that’s both convenient for modern customers and cost-efficient for retailers who want to participate in the platform.

“With ecommerce logistics pushing both retailers’ profitability and urban infrastructures to the breaking point, it’s clear that we need to reinvent the way goods are fulfilled and delivered within cities,” said Elram Goren, CEO and Co-Founder of CommonSense Robotics, in a release. “In order to fulfill and deliver on demand, you inherently need to be closer to your end customers, but that’s really hard in cities. Taking ecommerce fulfillment underground inside cities is one way we can enable retailers to fulfill online orders in close proximity to their customers — while doing so profitably.”

CommonSense Robotics has managed to shrink the footprint of the traditional automated fulfillment center dramatically. Most facilities that employ robots or other automated technologies need at least 120,000 square feet to operate, which you can really only find on the outskirts of heavily industrial areas which, while cheap to rent, aren’t always easy to find and are far distant from where customers live.

The new site being built by CommonSense Robotics in the basement of a Tel Aviv skyscraper fits its system into just 18,000 square feet in a triangular configuration no less, with an average clearance height of only 11 feet — that’s way too short for your average forklift, by the way. The facility will serve one-hour grocery deliveries to Tel Aviv residents from a full-service grocery site that includes three temperature zones that support on-demand fulfillment not just of the easy-to-store items you might find in CVS or Walgreens, but also ambient temperature, chilled, and frozen items. Similar experiments are underway in the U.S. and Europe, so we’ll keep our eyes open and let you know if there’s a subterranean robot grocery store in your future.

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