Supermarket giant Albertsons is now testing remote-controlled delivery carts at Safeway stores in California, the company announced March 5.
Albertsons is the second-largest supermarket chain in North America, operating stores under banners including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons and Jewel-Osco. It has partnered with Mountain View, California-based automated logistics startup Tortoise to pilot its electric cart.
This new advance is the latest effort Albertsons is exploring toward contactless solutions. For example, in January, the company announced that it was the first American grocer to pilot an automated contactless grocery pickup kiosk, located at one of its Jewel-Osco stores in Chicago. In October, Albertsons also launched temperature-controlled grocery pickup lockers at selected Chicago Jewel-Osco and Bay Area Safeway supermarkets.
“Our team is obsessed with trying new and disruptive technologies that can bring more convenience for our customers,” Chris Rupp, Albertsons’ executive vice president and chief customer and digital officer, said in a statement. “We are willing to quickly test, learn and implement winning innovations that ensure we are offering the easiest and most convenient shopping experience in the entire industry.”
A store starts by loading a delivery onto a cart and texting the delivery address and cart number to Tortoise. Each cart is equipped with a camera and a speaker and is guided through the neighborhood by a remote operator in Tortoise’s center in Mexico City. The cart is designed to move on the sidewalk or the side of the road to addresses within 3 miles of the store at an average speed of 3 miles per hour.
When the cart arrives at a home, the remote operator unlocks it and the customer receives a text to come outside and pick up their online orders for a contactless delivery experience. It can hold up to 120 pounds of groceries in four lockable containers at ambient, chilled and frozen temperatures on its flat cargo bed. Tortoise then tells the store the delivery is complete and returns the cart to the store for the next order.
Currently, Albertsons is testing this service at Safeway stores in select neighborhoods in northern California. In these early stages, an escort will walk alongside the cart.
Tortoise suggested it could reduce local grocery delivery costs from $10 to $15 per delivery for human drivers within two miles of a store to $4 per delivery using their carts.
Photo courtesy of Tortoise.