- The Save Mart Companies has started using robotic vehicles from Starship Technologies to deliver groceries from a Lucky California supermarket in Pleasanton, California, the companies announced Wednesday.
- Service via the emission-free autonomous carts, which can each carry up to 20 pounds of groceries, is currently available to about 1,500 households in the vicinity of the store, a number Save Mart expects to increase in the months to come.
- Save Mart is among a growing number of supermarket operators that offer robotic delivery as an option for online shoppers.
Save Mart's addition of autonomous grocery delivery service to the San Francisco-area Lucky California store builds on the grocer's September 2020 deployment of robots from Starship at a Save Mart-branded store in its hometown of Modesto, California.
That location, which serves as the flagship for the Save Mart banner, now offers autonomous grocery delivery to more than 55,000 households, according to the announcement.
Eligible customers can order groceries for robotic delivery using a mobile app provided by Starship and use an interactive map to track the vehicle. Shoppers also use a smartphone to unlock the delivery compartment when the robot pulls up.
The deployment at the Lucky California store, which reopened in May following a remodeling project as an "innovation lab," continues Starship's effort to expand its presence as it competes for attention in the fledgling autonomous delivery space. Founded in 2014, the startup has built its business in the United States primarily through a series of partnerships with educational institutions, including the University of California-Los Angeles and Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.
Save Mart's expanding foray into robotic delivery puts it in the company of other retailers that also are exploring ways to transport groceries to customers using unmanned vehicles.
Those retailers include Albertsons, which began testing remote-controlled delivery vehicles developed by Tortoise, a Silicon Valley-based startup, early last year. Tortoise rival Coco, meanwhile, said in December that it would test a new model of its remotely driven delivery cart in partnership with Los Angeles specialty grocer Erewhon Market.
In February, grocery startup Nourish + Bloom Market opened a frictionless checkout-equipped store in the Atlanta area that also offers robotic delivery, while Kroger recently announced it will begin delivering groceries in Houston using Nuro's new commercial-grade vehicles.
Last month, Starship, which is based in San Francisco and has engineering operations in Estonia, agreed to a 50 million euro ($56.8 million) funding partnership with the European Investment Bank. The company raised $17 million from investors in January 2021.
Save Mart's partnership with Starship complements its announcement last April that it had started using autonomous inventory-scanning vehicles from Simbe Robotics in seven Northern California stores.