Driverless technology and other innovations hitting the delivery scene

With Co-op and Deliveroo announcing plans to deliver party bundles, what other revelry is happening on this scene? 

24 January 2018
image credit: Robomart

Deliveroo and Co-op are getting the party started. Forget online shopping, the new thing being trialled is a home-delivery service of party bundle deals. It is being piloted at five stores in Greater Manchester with snacks and alcohol.

The bundles are either a bunch of beers with Doritos and Walkers crisps or a choice of gin or vodka with a packet of Doritos thrown in. But customers can also customise their picks with a range of beers and spirits, along with confectionary such as Maltesers, M&Ms and Cadbury Giant Buttons or biscuits from the Co-op, Maryland and McVities.

With the UK food delivery market estimated to have made £7.1bn in 2017 and the demand for home deliveries growing 10 times faster than for dining out last year, it is an area ripe for innovation.

So where else is the delivery party dancing?

Transport transformation

Welcome to the party bus. Well, not quite, but the delivery vehicle is getting a makeover. Zume Pizza in California has retrofitted a delivery van to hold 56 ovens (as well as automating a lot of the pizza-making process in the kitchen). It’s designed for orders that are more than 12 minutes away from the store.

What happens is, the pizza is loaded into the oven partly cooked and unboxed, and as the truck nears the customer's address, a software algorithm prompts the oven holding that pizza to bake it for an additional three and a half minutes.

Once parked, the driver removes the pizza from the oven, cuts it and delivers it to the door. So it’s still piping hot – genius!

Zume co-founder Julia Collins said so much data had been collected from deliveries that they can predict what pizza someone will want before they even order it. It can also predict the number of orders in a particular area, loading up the delivery truck with the ‘za customers want and sending it to the area in anticipation. This allows deliveries to be made within five minutes.

Self-driving supermarkets

What about the idea of retailer coming to your door? Wheelys, a start-up that began with a café on a bike, has created a self-driving supermarket called Moby Mart. Customers can access it 24/7 using an app and it has been undergoing tests in China and San Francisco.

The plan for world domination is in place as well, with Wheelys wanting an entire fleet of self-driving, staff-less stores in cities around the globe.

But Wheelys has competition. US company Robomart is building a fleet with the same function that it will license to retailers to “power the most affordable on-demand delivery services across the world,” it says.

Groceries are set to be a $1tn business worldwide, and perishables like fresh produce make up around 60% of all groceries sold. However, figures from Kantar Worldpanel show just a tiny fraction of that – less than 5% – has moved online.

According to Robomart, “This is because having humans pick and deliver groceries is prohibitively expensive for retailers, and because consumers don't trust someone else picking produce for them.”

With Robomart, consumers will be able to tap a button to request the closest self-driving store.

“Once it arrives, they head outside, unlock the doors, and shop for the products they want. When they are done, they just close the doors and send it on its way. Robomart tracks what customers have taken using patent-pending ‘grab and go’ checkout-free technology and will charge them and send a receipt accordingly,” the company website says.

Robomart claims there is compelling consumer demand. The company surveyed women in the US and found that more than 85% of them do not shop for fruits and vegetables online, because they felt home delivery was too expensive and they wanted to pick their own produce. Almost 65% said they would order a Robomart more than once a week.

The company wants to work with large retailers, who would have their own branded Robomarts, with a store signing up for a 24 month lease. It imagines it being used for groceries as well as ready-to-eat meals, and the working model will be the size of minivan.

Risky business

Fancy an extreme athlete delivering your meal?

This may have been more of a marketing stunt, but in the US Grubhub announced a new delivery service “without limits” featuring freerunning and parkour athletes, BMX riders and skateboarders, who would overcome “any urban obstacle between you and your meal.”

Parkour jumpers were getting instant updates on the delivery trail on the vertical and horizontal distances between them and their next obstacle so they could vault, climb and roll with ease, while BMX riders received suggestions on the nearest railings and ledges so they could grind their way past pesky stairs. No word on how intact your meal is at the end.

The UK is showing its adventurous streak too. Deliveroo has trained an elite squad of riders able to ski, snowboard and snowmobile orders to customer’s doors during this winter season. Restaurants including GBK and Wagamama signed up to the snow trial, with riders able to avoid treacherous roads and any traffic, making deliveries up to twice as fast as regular deliveries, Deliveroo said...

With delivery drones already a familiar idea to most consumers, technology’s influence continues to make itself felt. And once legal hurdles are overcome, driverless cars may not just be for transportation, but the daily shop too.

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