Stop & Shop to launch self-driving mini grocery stores in Boston

US-based supermarket chain Stop & Shop is the latest to unveil autonomous grocery deliveries, but with a twist. Unlike other grocery delivery options unveiled by competitors, Stop & Shop will load self-driving vehicles with a variety of items that consumers can directly purchase, essentially transforming these cars into miniature convenience stores. The vehicles will first deploy in the Greater Boston area this spring.

Stop & Shop has tapped Robomart for its driverless vehicles, which can be summoned using a smartphone app. The rolling grocery stores feature computer vision and RFID to record what the customer chooses, making it possible to provide a checkout-free experience, as well.

According to the company, the process will involve the customer summoning the self-driving car using a smartphone app. Once it arrives, the customer will unlock its doors and choose the items they want to purchase. After they're finished making their selection, the customer closes the vehicle's doors and leaves with their food.

The system automatically charges the customer's card for the items and emails them a receipt, making the system similar to Amazon Go checkout-free convenience stores. The big difference, of course, is the rolling vehicle, making it possible for the store to drive to the customer rather than the traditional customer-to-store experience.

The Stop & Shop vehicles will feature fresh produce, according to the company, as well as a selection of other items. Each vehicle will be remotely operated from a Robomart facility and restocked when necessary to ensure customers get a full selection of items. It's unclear how many vehicles will hit the streets later this year.