A robotics startup called 'Robomart' wants to replace Postmates and Instacart with self-driving grocery stores
Jan. 10, 2018 - A robot grocery called Robotmart is coming for the humble delivery worker in California.
This week at the Consumer Electronics Show, a startup (of the same name) debuted a self-driving, nearly fully autonomous grocery store on wheels. The robot will bring fruits, vegetables, and other perishable items from the supermarket aisle to customers' doors.
According to Robotmart founder Ali Ahmed, the company could compete with the on-demand giants taking on grocery delivery services, like Amazon, Instacart, and Postmates. Supermarket chains would license the platform and robots for a two-year lease, which Ahmed said will still be cheaper than opening a new store. They pocket the delivery fee instead of the on-demand operator.
"I believe we're creating a new category," Ahmed said at CES, according to TechCrunch.
Customers can use a smartphone app to hail the closest robot, which arrives packed with fresh produce. The app unlocks the doors, and the robot tracks what customers have taken using an array of cameras. Robomart charges the customer accordingly and moves on. The company has not revealed its delivery fee or a price range for the produce.
Robomart surveyed an unknown number of women between the ages of 24 and 44 and found that more than 85% of those polled said they do not shop for fruits and vegetables online because they think delivery is too expensive or because they do not trust the service to pick their produce. With Robomart, customers can cherry-pick their groceries from the vehicle, so are could be less concern about quality.
The vehicle is the culmination of 10 years of work from Ahmed, a serial entrepreneur. It's about the size of a Sprinter van equipped with LiDAR, radar, and cameras that help it see and drive without a human operator. Ahmed said he expects Robomart to be fully autonomous this year.
In San Francisco, supermarket chains that use Robomart may have to keep a close watch on their vehicles. A security robot from startup Knightscope was vandalized and toppled after it was deployed outside an animal rescue group in December.
The company has applied for an Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and plans to launch a pilot program by summer 2018.
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