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Ann Arbor Independent Grocer to Introduce Robot Delivery

Produce Station now offers delivery with Refraction AI robot
Refraction AI's REV-1 robot 
Photograph courtesy of Refraction AI

Independent grocer Produce Station, of Ann Arbor, Mich., is now offering curbside delivery via a three-wheeled  autonomous delivery robot that drives itself along streetside bike paths.

Refraction AI's REV-1 robot will offer autonomous delivery within 3 miles of Produce Station's store, according to the companies. The curbside deliveries are being offered free of charge Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The robot delivery is in addition to existing offerings of curbside pickup at the store and traditional vehicle delivery, the retailer said.

Customers within the delivery area can place an order online and they will receive text messages with delivery updates throughout the process. Another text will give the unique code needed to open the robot when it arrives at the customer’s curb.

Other retailers experimenting with self-driving vehicles for delivery include Kroger and Walmart. These hold promise to reduce last-mile costs.

“Our expansion into grocery delivery was a no-brainer during this time when the need for contactless delivery is so strong,” said Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder and CEO of Ann Arbor-based Refraction AI, whose robots have been making deliveries for area restaurants since last year. “We’re really happy to provide a safer solution for grocery shopping, especially for the at-risk members of our community. Through this partnership with Produce Station, we’ll be gathering insight and data to further expand our grocery delivery model.” 

Safety protocols have been stepped up during the pandemic, and the robot, which is 4 feet tall, 4.5 feet long and 30 inches wide, is cleaned between every delivery. It can also hold up to six bags of groceries and travels at 10 to 15 miles per hour, allowing it operate on bike paths and roadways.

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