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03/05/2021

What has four wheels and makes Safeway deliveries?

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Safeway Tortoise

Regional grocery chain Safeway is the latest retailer to test an autonomous delivery robot.

Safeway parent Albertsons Cos. is partnering with Tortoise, an automated last-mile logistics company, to pilot its remote-controlled, zero-emission delivery cart in Northern California. The Safeway cart, powered by Tortoise technology, is equipped with a camera and a speaker and is guided through the neighborhood by a remote operator (fellow Neil Young fans may also have his 1994 deep cut “Safeway Cart” come to mind). 

The cart can hold up to 120 pounds of groceries in four lockable containers for a contactless delivery experience. When the cart arrives at a home, the customer receives a text to come outside and pick up their groceries. The carts are specifically designed to travel at an average speed of 3 mph and are fully powered by an electric battery.

Albertsons’ latest digital innovation follows other pilots of autonomous delivery robots (as distinct from full-sized self-driving cars or aerial drones), such as Amazon Scout, SaveMart Starship, and Postmates Serve. The grocery conglomerate has been generally busy with launching new digital and omnichannel offerings, such as an automated pickup kiosk and pick-up lockers at select Jewel-Osco stores.

Currently, the Tortoise automated delivery cart service is open for testing with Safeway associates in select Northern California neighborhoods. In these early stages, a human escort will accompany the cart as part of the pilot process.

“Our team is obsessed with trying new and disruptive technologies that can bring more convenience for our customers,” said Chris Rupp, executive VP and chief customer and digital officer, Albertsons. “We are willing to quickly test, learn, and implement winning innovations that ensure we are offering the easiest and most convenient shopping experience in the entire industry.”