Albertsons Companies, the grocery giant that owns Safeway and Jewel-Osco, has launched a pilot program that will test the delivery of groceries using remote-controlled delivery robots developed by Silicon Valley startup Tortoise .
The pilot will debut at two Safeway locations in Northern California, although Tortoise co-founder and chairman Dmitry Shevelenko has said that if successful, he expects the pilot to continue to evolve to other stores. out of state and possibly on the west coast..
Safeway-branded delivery carts equipped with Tortoise’s sensors and software will be able to deliver goods to customers up to three miles from the store location. Remote-controlled operators located thousands of kilometers away will guide the delivery cart to its destination.
Delivery trolleys, which can hold up to 120 pounds of groceries in four lockable containers, will initially have a human escort. The goal is to remove the additional guide once the pilot is established. Once the delivery trolley has arrived, the customer receives an SMS to come and collect their groceries.
The pilot is the latest example of large retailers adopting technology in an effort to get products to customers faster. Amazon, Kroger and Walmart are just a few that are experimenting with delivery robots and using autonomous vehicles to get goods to customers or within its distribution network.
“Our team is obsessed with trying new and disruptive technologies that can bring more convenience to our customers,” Chris Rupp, executive vice president and chief customer and digital officer said in a statement. “We’re ready to quickly test, learn and implement winning innovations that ensure we deliver the industry’s easiest and most convenient shopping experience.”
The agreement is also a validation of the passage of Tortoise in the delivery carts, a commercial activity launched less than a year ago.
“The idea didn’t come to us until April,” Shevelenko said in a recent interview, which added that the first delivery cart was launched in Los Angeles at the end of October.
Tortoise got its start equipping electric scooters with cameras, electronics, and firmware that allow call center operators in remote locations to ride electric scooters and bikes to a cyclist or return them to their proper parking spot. Last spring, as the COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for delivery services, Tortoise adapted its technology to a cart that could shuttle groceries.
“I think about [Amazon] Prime, after launch everyone expected a two-day delivery, and seven days looked like a lifetime. Now two days seems like a lifetime as expectations shift to same day delivery, he added.
Tortoise initially focused on neighborhood stores and specialty brand boutiques, through a partnership with an online grocery platform. Shevelenko’s strategy is to contract with large retailers while continuing to partner with e-commerce platforms, which would allow it to reach smaller, independent stores.
Early Stage is the premier “how-to” event for start-up entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear firsthand how some of the most successful Founders and VCs build their businesses, raise funds, and manage their portfolios. We will cover all aspects of starting a business: fundraising, recruiting, sales, product-market fit, public relations, marketing and brand development. Each session also incorporates audience participation – there is ample time for audience questions and discussions.