Autonomous delivery vehicles (ADVs) are on the cutting edge of ecommerce, and independent grocers are getting into the game. BFL Grocery Co. owners Hank and Susan Binkowski are introducing the vehicles to help with last-mile delivery of ecommerce orders for their grocery stores in Oklahoma City, Okla. Their banners include Uptown Grocery, Buy For Less, Buy For Less Super Mercado and Smart Saver.
The Binkowskis signed a partnership with Burlingame, Calif.-based ADV company Udelv in September 2018 for 10 customized cargo vans to service the greater Oklahoma City area. At the time, it was the largest ADV deal in the world. The first vehicle is expected to arrive in the first quarter of the year, with the full fleet to be on the road by June 2019. The custom-made cargo vans, which are the world’s first ADVs for public-road driving, will operate with safety drivers until both companies and regulators deem them approved for safe driverless operation.
“We believe we exist to elevate communities and relationships, always striving to be innovative and forward-thinking with decisions on how to serve our community,” says Susan Binkowski. “As a leading provider of grocery in Oklahoma, we are thrilled to add this new technology that enhances our ability to deliver food with excellence, service and convenience to Oklahoma families.”
To accompany the commission of driverless vehicles, Udelv and Esperanza Real Estate Investments, also owned by the Binkowskis, will establish in Oklahoma City a state-of-the-art teleoperations center for the remote control and monitoring of the fleet. The deal also secured an exclusive dealership agreement with Udelv for additional fleet vans to service other local merchants, residents and potential pharmacies in underserved markets.
“This agreement and subsequent advent of ADV technology in Oklahoma City is a technological win for Oklahoma,” Susan Binkowski adds.