Robomart's autonomous rolling produce market makes convenience stores more convenient
Autonomous cars may make it easier to get to the convenience store, but what about a convenience store that comes to you? At CES 2018, Robomart has unveiled its eponymous driverless, electric, mobile market that not only delivers groceries on demand, but allows customers to select their own fresh produce without preordering while costing only a fraction of conventional delivery services to run.
Many bricks and mortar supermarkets have introduced delivery services as a way to compete with online grocery sites, but both suffer from limitations. One of the biggest is that even though fresh, perishable items make up 60 percent of grocery sales, they only account for five percent of delivery orders. Additionally, processing delivery orders requires packers and drivers that make such services expensive.
According to Robomart, the reason perishables make up such a small percentage of delivery orders is that customers prefer to select their own produce rather than leaving the decision to a stranger who can't tell kale from cauliflower.
Robomart's solution is an autonomous market vehicle based on the Nvidia's level 5 autonomy Drive Platform through Nvidia's inception program. The platform runs a proprietary software suite of power sensor fusion, localization, control, path planning, and obstacle avoidance algorithms that dispense with the need for a safety driver.
To order the Robomart, customers use a smartphone app to summon the vehicle. When it shows up at the curb, the customer unlocks the door and selects the produce they want while "grab and go" checkout-free technology adds up the bill and sends a receipt.
The company says that the Robomart is not only environmentally friendly and five times cheaper to operate than conventional delivery vehicles, but that its marketing research shows that 65 percent of US women aged 26 to 44 would order a Robomart more than once a week.
In addition, the system allows grocers to gather consumer sales data, expand their store footprint without investing in new property, and manage their Robotmart fleet orders, routing, restocking, and teleoperations. It also allows management to communicate with customers, staff, and law enforcement.
Robomart has already built its first prototype and is seeking an Autonomous Vehicle Testing Permit from California's Department of Motor Vehicles. The next step will be to build fully functional versions of the Robomart and begin commercial pilot programs in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The video below provides a brief look at the Robomart.