Convenience retailer Urban Value Corner Store is joining forces with convenience industry e-commerce provider Vroom Delivery and last-mile robot operator Tortoise to pilot on-demand delivery of thousands of products on the retailer’s home turf of Dallas. Products will include such grocery staples as milk and eggs, along with beverages, ice cream, snacks and more, all delivered in less than an hour. Alcohol and tobacco products will also be available for delivery from human drivers.
Tortoise’s delivery robots are each about the size of a large cooler and remotely piloted, ensuring that a person is always in control. The robots operate on the sidewalks and drive at an average speed of about 3 miles per hour, enabling them to safely navigate around pedestrians, cars, pets and other obstacles. The cart can carry more than 100 pounds of goods in sealed containers, which are remotely opened by the cart operator when it arrives at its destination.
The Vroom-Tortoise partnership offers a contactless, zero-emission and affordable home delivery option, mitigating sustainability and congestion issues, according to the companies, which add that the Tortoise Cart is 100% electric, eliminating the need for a gas-consuming delivery vehicle and minimizing the traffic impact of e-commerce.
“We are thrilled to be working with Urban Value, a leading convenience store chain in downtown Dallas, on a pilot deployment in the coming months,” noted Dmitry Shevelenko, a former director of business development at Uber who went on to co-found Mountain View, Calif.-based Tortoise.
Urban Value will initially pilot the robot delivery program from its downtown location. If successful, the pilot will roll out the program across the Dallas Metroplex. “We are very excited to pilot this first-in-market contactless shopping opportunity,” said Urban Value CEO Steve McKinley. “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.”
“In addition to the obvious contactless and environmental benefits, what we like about this concept is that this is also a very affordable solution for both the store and the consumer, significantly lowering the average cost of delivery,” observed John Nelson, CEO of Chicago-based Vroom.
Customers can already order groceries from Urban Value for home delivery through the Vroom platform, with robots assuming the last-mile responsibilities in the next few months. Vroom and Tortoise also plan to make the offering available to other convenience store chains across the United States. Urban Value currently operates two stores, in downtown Dallas and McKinney, with a third slated to open soon in Frisco, Texas.
Earlier this year, Tortoise embarked on a last-mile delivery test with Albertsons Cos. in Northern California. Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons operates 2,277 retail stores with 1,725 pharmacies, 400 associated fuel centers, 22 dedicated distribution centers and 20 manufacturing facilities. The company’s stores predominantly operate under the Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaw’s, Star Market, United Supermarkets, Kings Food Markets and Haggen banners. Albertsons is No. 8 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.