A startup named Robomart is putting a new twist on delivery: instead of picking out your items in an app, you “hail” the entire store to your front door. Then, just pick out the items you want and the van drives off.
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“It will always be twice as fast as the fastest delivery service because we don’t have to go pickup orders,” explained Robomart CEO and co-founder Ali Ahmed.
They call the service “store hailing” since it’s kind of like ordering an Uber, but for an entire store. You use an app to request a van to your location.
“The idea is that you should be able to tap a button and have a store, any store come to you and be able to get your products right at home,” explained Ahmed.
Right now, there’s a snack van and a pharmacy van, but Ahmed believes the ultimate van in the future would be stocked with essentials like bread, milk, eggs and produce. That’s a ways off.
Currently, drivers of Robomart’s vans are human, but in the future, the company envisions a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles roaming cities to deliver goods in minutes.
“Sometimes it takes 20, 30 minutes just to decide on what to buy and create that order. With Robomart you’re tapping one button just like a ride hailing service and shopping when it arrives,” said Ahmed.
Every item has an RFID tag, which lets Robomart’s automated checkout system know what you take from the van. It’s all self-service: the van shows up, the door opens, you grab your items and the van drives off.
After the van drives off, the system tallies up what you took and sends you a digital receipt.
If it’s all reminiscent of a high-tech ice cream truck, that’s because it is. Ahmed says his co-founder counts that as the inspiration for his original idea 15 years ago. It just took tech a bit to catch up to implement it.
“He had the idea to recreate the ice cream van for everything else in retail and have it on demand,” concluded Ahmed.
Right now, Robomart is starting out small, servicing the West Hollywood area of Los Angeles in the evenings. Eventually, they hope to expand the service to more cities.
The service is currently invite only, but Robomart tells me they are sending out invite codes on a daily basis. Here are some codes to give you instant access, but they are first come first serve. If one doesn’t work, it’s already been used.
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