Wakefern Testing Robot Delivery in Pennsylvania

Tortoise delivery bot feature

Independent grocery cooperative Wakefern Food Corp. is testing robot delivery at two ShopRite stores in Pennsylvania as retailers continue to explore automated options for augmenting traditional methods to make e-grocery fulfillment faster and more efficient.

A ShopRite store in Yardley, PA, has already begun the pilot program, with another ShopRite in Bethlehem, PA expected to follow suite in October. The battery-powered, remote controlled delivery bots are from Tortoise, and are the first deployment on the east coast.

“We are excited to launch this revolutionary new technology,” said Wakefern Chairman and CEO Joe Colalillo, who is also president of ShopRite of Hunterdon County, operator of the two stores, in a release. “Demand for ever faster home delivery continues to increase and we believe this provides another innovative way for ShopRite customers to receive their groceries quickly and efficiently,” s “Tortoise’s battery-powered cart is a unique, environmentally-friendly and cost-effective delivery option for our customers who shop online.”

The cart-like bots from Tortoise average three miles per hour, typically traveling on sidewalks or the side of the road. They can hold up to 150 lbs. in four lockable containers for ambient, chilled and frozen groceries. Customers get text alerts when their order is arriving, and a link that allows them to unlock the cart.

Tortoise cofounder Dmitry Shevelenko was Uber’s director of business development from 2014 to 2018; the company was founded the following year.

Another vendor, Delivery Solutions, worked with Wakefern and Tortoise to provide real-time order tracking and scheduling for the delivery bots.

Since March, Tortoise bots have been tested by Albertsons at two Safeway stores in northern California, and the startup recently began delivering food between a store and a commissary for Colorado-based convenience store chain Choice Markets, according to Winsight Grocery Business. They are also being used in partnership with Vroom Delivery and Urban Value Corner Store Dallas, as well as by Safeway

On the other side of the pond, UK grocer Asda is taking another tack, using autonomous delivery vans through a partnership with startup Wayve as part of a 12-month trial beginning in 2022. Asda will be the first retailer to commercially test the solution, using Wayve’s deep learning technology to help navigate complex urban delivery routes in London.