Regional grocer joins automated delivery trend

Photo by Jay Sousa

Save Mart is the latest in a growing list of retailers using self-driving robotic vehicles to deliver groceries and other goods.

The supermarket chain, which operates 83 stores in the Central Valley of California, is launching an on-demand delivery service at its Modesto flagship using delivery robots from Starship Technologies. Save Mart opened its Modesto store as an innovation lab in 2019 and is the first U.S. grocer to partner with Starship Technologies.

Amazon’s six-wheel, fully-electric delivery vehicle Scout, which most recently expanded to Atlanta and Franklin, Tenn., in July, is probably the most famous autonomous retail delivery device. But FedEx, Postmates, Walmart, Kroger, Stop & Shop, DoorDash, and H-E-B all initiated pilots of self-driving, ground-based delivery vehicles during 2019.

The robots, each of which can carry up to 20 pounds of groceries (the equivalent of about three shopping bags) and can travel up to four miles roundtrip, will provide a contactless delivery alternative for Save Mart shoppers. Customers can order from thousands of items via the Starship app platform for on-demand home delivery.

The Starship robots move at pedestrian speed and use a combination of machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. The computer vision-based navigation helps the robots to map their environment to the nearest inch. The robots can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night and operate in both rain and snow. A team of humans can also monitor their progress remotely and can take control at a moment's notice.

"We continually seek new ways to serve our communities and offer solutions for efficient, safe and healthy grocery shopping," said Robert Cady, senior director of marketing strategy and analytics for Save Mart parent The Save Mart Companies. "Through our partnership with Starship Technologies, Save Mart is pleased once again to lead the way in customer service and innovation."

Save Mart is a banner under The Save Mart Companies (TSMC) that operates 206 stores throughout California and Northern Nevada. Additional store banners include, Lucky, Lucky California, FoodMaxx and Maxx Value Foods.

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