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This Robotic Tortoise Could Be the Future of Grocery Delivery

By Tim Nelson | FoodAndWine.Com

Troy Warren #foodie-all

It’s already driving around some California neighborhoods.

Whether we like it or not, the age of automation has already begun to affect our daily lives. Robots are roaming grocery store aisles, though it’s unclear what exactly they’re up to. Now, it appears one of them has escaped out the front door and may be headed towards your home. 

This (potentially dire, potentially useful) vision of the future comes from a new partnership between grocery chain Albertsons and an “automatic logistics startup” called Tortoise which will see remote-controlled delivery carts making the rounds in the not so distant future. 

Given a smiley face so as not to signal your impending doom, the battery-powered Tortoise comes with a camera and a speaker, which lets a remote operator guide them from Safeway test stores in Tracy and Windsor, California to customer homes. Tortoise can haul up to 120 pounds of product, divided into four locked containers. 

As it stands now, this particular vision of the future comes with some limitations. Fittingly, Tortoise can only move at a top speed of three miles per hour. It also has a maximum range of three miles from its home base, so you do the math on that one. In the future, 

That hasn’t stopped Tortoise from plotting its world domination, however. The startup (which pivoted from a pre-pandemic orientation towards scooters) hopes to have a foothold in some of the largest markets in the country. In terms of improving its offering, they also hope to introduce climate-controlled bins so food can get dropped off even when you aren’t home during the second half of 2021. 

So while the idea of a smiling robot dropping off some frozen peas may not sit well with everyone, Tortoise could end up  being a useful way to make short-range deliveries at least a little bit easier and greener. Thankfully, it seems like you could probably outrun a Tortoise if it became self-aware and went rogue.