Convenience store retailer Urban Value Corner Store, ecommerce provider Vroom Delivery and last mile robotic delivery operator Tortoise have partnered to offer automated on-demand delivery in the Dallas market. The delivery robots will handle pantry staples such as milk, eggs and snacks, while human drivers will deliver alcohol and tobacco items.
The contactless delivery service will utilize the Tortoise Cart, a 100% electric robot approximately the size of a large cooler. Tortoise Carts are remotely controlled by human operators to ensure their safety and are capable of carrying more than 100 lbs. of goods in sealed containers. The cart operator can open the containers once the robot has arrived at its destination. The robots move at an average speed of 3 mph, letting them travel along sidewalks to avoid traffic congestion.
Urban Value initially will pilot the program at its downtown Dallas location before expanding to other stores in the area. “We are very excited to pilot this first-in-market contactless shopping opportunity,” said Steve McKinley, CEO of Urban Value in a statement. “I expect that this technology, combined with our diverse product offering, will provide downtown Dallas residents and office staff a much more convenient shopping experience.”
Autonomous delivery is still in its infancy, but multiple retailers are trying out the technology. Kroger has been testing autonomous delivery in Dallas and Scottsdale, Ariz. since 2018 through a partnership with Nuro, while Walmart has been testing automated electric vehicles in Scottsdale since November 2020 with Cruise.
In April 2021, Walmart took part in a fundraising round for Cruise, which has raised $2.75 billion in total capital. Walmart believes Cruise’s efforts are important from the standpoint of sustainability as well as convenience.
“As delivery has become a staple in our customers’ lives, we’re focused on growing our last mile ecosystem in a way that’s beneficial for everyone — customers, business and the planet,” said Walmart in a statement about the Cruise investment. “With their all-electric fleet powered by 100% renewable energy, Cruise is a natural partner as we work to take collective action on climate change.”