Albertsons’ Safeway unveils robot food delivery carts

Should you’re a Safeway buyer in Northern California, your grocery delivery particular person may quickly appear a bit clunky.

That’s as a result of it’s a remote-controlled, zero-emission delivery cart.

Albertsons Firms, which owns the Safeway chain of supermarkets, is becoming a member of forces with Tortoise to have what is basically a robot convey food and home items to properties inside a three-mile radius of a Safeway. Checks are working at shops within the California cities of Tracy and Windsor.

A distant management operator within the retailer makes use of a digital camera and audio system to navigate the battery-powered robot to your own home. The cart, which may maintain as a lot as 120 kilos, carries orders for 2 households and travels a median velocity of three miles per hour. When it arrives at your property, you get a textual content to say it’s there and the operator unlocks the container together with your order.

Throughout the pilot program, a human will escort the delivery cart.

[Photo: courtesy of Safeway]

“We’ve been on the lookout for applied sciences that permit us to serve prospects sooner and higher,” Chris Rupp, Albertsons Firms govt vice chairman and chief buyer and digital officer, tells Quick Firm. “For now, we’ve got a human concerned to translate what the robot is doing.”

On-line grocery was already a rising section earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic, however its tempo of development has accelerated since lockdowns and issues about catching the virus started final 12 months. It’s anticipated to be 21.5% of whole U.S. grocery gross sales by 2025, about $250 billion of the $1.16 trillion in grocery gross sales, in accordance with a examine by Mercatus, a grocery retail e-commerce firm, and the analysis agency Incisiv. That’s up from 10.2% in 2020 and solely 3.4% in 2019.

Some varieties of food and drink are ineligible for the Tortoise robot delivery, like those who embody alcohol or gadgets with awkward dimensions, like extra-large deli trays.

Safeway’s minimal order for delivery is $35.

The Boise, Idaho-based grocery store large, whose banners embody the eponymous Albertsons, has been engaged on this for six months, Rupp explains. It’s an effort to cut back click-to-deliver charges; velocity and comfort are key. The corporate is seeking to supply same-day delivery throughout the board, which it presently doesn’t do.

Albertsons got here below fireplace in January when it laid off delivery personnel and changed them with gig staff by way of third-party suppliers equivalent to DoorDash.

The corporate declined to say how a lot a remote-controlled delivery cart prices.

Albertsons went public in June 2020. Its different chains embody Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, and Star Market.

Tortoise, headquartered in Mountain View, California, was based in 2019 by Dmitry Shevelenko, a former director of enterprise growth at Uber, and David Graham.