What happens when you put a c-store on wheels?
Automated checkout and drone delivery may one day change how we shop. And now, Swedish tech startup Wheelys has partnered with a Chinese university to create a mini-convenience store concept on wheels meant to make use of both technologies. Further, the “mobile c-store,” called Moby Mart, currently being beta tested in Shanghai, is being designed to one day drive itself to customers.
A promotional video for Moby Mart explains that customers can search via an app to find the store nearest to them, then ask the store to drive itself to the customer’s location. When the store arrives, shoppers can use their app to unlock the store, scan what they want and check out automatically. The video shows items such as fruit, bread and pastries as well as shoes available on the Moby Mart shelves.
The beta does offer some of the most important features, although, according to a Wired article, the existing version of Moby Mart is still human-controlled. And yet, given the rate of innovation with self-driving technology, it’s not hard to imagine Moby Mart soon hitting the road without training wheels.
While Amazon Go might be the most obvious point of comparison, other companies have also been working on technology that bears some resemblance to Moby Mart. For instance, Google patented a self-driving delivery truck last year that is fitted with individual lockers from which customers can collect packages.
While the intent may be to offer the convenience of autonomous drones and checkout-free grocery at once, Moby Mart may be susceptible to the technological challenges that both incipient models face.
A collision involving an entire store on wheels could be disastrous. And while it’s not entirely clear how Amazon Go will prevent shoplifting, the potential concern would be even greater with Moby Mart given that someone could lure the entire store somewhere in order to rob it.
- Wheelys Moby Mart – YouTube
- China now has a robo-grocery store that will drive to your door – Wired
- What will driverless cars mean for shoppers? – RetailWire
- Is Google’s self-driving delivery truck the future of the last mile? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see a Moby Mart-like concept as being viable in the U.S.? Does the concept solve any of the problems that nag drone delivery or does it create more?