WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
As society starts to get used to the idea of autonomous vehicles it’s giving companies the opportunity to re-imagine entire industries.
As companies start to realise that the future of transportation will inevitably be autonomous there are an increasing number of start-ups, as well as more established players, like Audi and Toyota who both recently unveiled their own futuristic transportation concepts, the Audi LDL and the Toyota e-Palette, are beginning to look at the technology as an opportunity to re-envision and re-invent not just how we, or goods, move around, but how we interact with and engage with a variety of on demand services.
Self-driving cars might make it easier for us to the convenience store, but now one company, Robomart has taken the idea one step further and figured, why not bring the convenience store to you? And even though you might raise an eyebrow, on some level they have a point, and if the idea caught on then conceivably one day we could see a time when shops come to you, rather than the other way round.
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Autonomous, mobile shops, weird eh? Take that in the eye E-Commerce giants. Re-imagining industries is fun.
This week at CES 2018, Robomart unveiled its low cost “eponymous driverless, electric, mobile market” that not only delivers groceries on demand, but allows customers to select their own fresh produce without having to pre-order it first. Taking the idea one step further, if we are going to start thinking a little outside the box, one day, there’s no reason why the same platform couldn’t be turned into a mobile vertical farm, after all, you won’t be able to get fresher… and as I spoke about in Paris last year when I talked about the Future of Sustainable Cities, urban farming is on the up. Anyway, back to the story.
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 these orders requires packers and drivers that make the service relatively 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 autonomous market vehicle is based on Nvidia’s level 5 autonomy Drive platform that runs a proprietary software suite of power sensor fusion, localisation, control, path planning, and obstacle avoidance algorithms that allow the company to do away with a human driver, and as you’d expect, to order the Robomart customers simply have to use an app. When it shows up at the curb, they unlock the door and select the produce they want while “Grab and Go” checkout free technology, similar to what we’re seen in Amazon’s Amazon Go cashierless store concept, automatically adds up the bill and sends them 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 expensive 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 DMV and say that the next step will be to build fully functional versions and begin a commercial pilot in the San Francisco Bay Area. So next time you go to cross the road, watch out for autonomous, mobile shops…