Do you want the convenience of home grocery delivery without the extra cost? Do you wish you didn’t have to worry what kind of meat and produce some delivery driver is going to pick out for you?

A Silicon Valley startup is combining one trend, grocery delivery, with another trend, driverless cars, to solve one big problem –

Shoppers want to pick out their own stuff.

Today, “Robomart” is officially unveiling what it calls “the world’s first self-driving store” at the CES 2018 tech show in Las Vegas. Instead of delivering purchases you make online, Robomart’s self-driving vehicles will deliver an entire selection of products to your door, so you can do your grocery shopping, in person, without ever leaving home.

Robomart says perishables like fresh produce account for about 60% of all groceries sold, but only 5% are sold online. “This is because having humans pick and deliver groceries is prohibitively expensive for retailers, and because consumers don’t trust someone else picking produce for them,” the company explains.

So it plans to launch an entire fleet of driverless refrigerated vehicles, containing a selection of fresh produce that you can peruse once one of them arrives at your home. Robomart would provide the vehicles but not the produce – instead, it plans to license its vehicles to grocery retailers, who will be the ones to stock them and sell their contents.

Here’s how it would work. You’d register your name, address, payment method and other information with your local grocery store. Whenever you want to shop, you open the store’s app, request the nearest available Robomart, and it shows up at your home. You use the app to unlock the doors, take the products you want, and send the vehicle on its way.


Similar to a hotel minibar that uses sensors to detect what you take and charges you accordingly, Robomarts will track the products you select and charge your account.

Your store could even choose to make digital coupons available that you could apply to your purchase. And there would be no delivery fee, since there’s little manpower needed aside from keeping the vehicles stocked.

Robomart is showing off its first prototype in Las Vegas today, and hopes to have several others ready to roll out for a pilot launch this summer. Each vehicle offers 70 cubic feet of shelf space, and holds anywhere from 50 to 100 different items. Robomart envisions having grocery stores offer multiple separate units, for produce, dairy, meat and even ready-to-eat prepared foods in specially-equipped units that are heated instead of refrigerated.

So if you want to knock out all of your shopping for the week, you could press a bunch of different buttons on your app and have an entire fleet of Robomarts drive up to your doorstep.

Whether grocers are ready to embrace this technology, and shoppers are ready to try it, could depend on whether the cars themselves are ready for prime time. Driverless cars aren’t exactly commonplace just yet, and they aren’t foolproof. What if one gets in an accident, or what if communities object to having them roam through their neighborhoods?

But you’ve got to give Robomart credit for trying. It says 65% of consumers it surveyed said they would be likely to shop from a Robomart at least once a week.

Or, you could simply hop in your own driverless car and have it take you to the grocery store. Because when it comes to the technology of tomorrow – who really knows what the future will hold?

Image source: Robomart

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