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As California starts to see the effects of the passage of Prop. 22, which excepted the gig economy app companies from classifying their workers as employees, Albertsons Companies reportedly announced that it has partnered with an automated logistics company focused on last-mile solutions to pilot its remote-controlled zero-emission delivery cart in Northern California.
Headquartered in Mountain View, CA, Tortoise automates logistics for light electric vehicles like delivery bots and e-scooters, including their first-of-its-kind remote-controlled grocery and parcel delivery bot.
Together with the EV company, Albertsons Companies and Safeway are piloting a remote-controlled zero-emission delivery cart that can hold up to 120 pounds of groceries in four lockable containers for a contactless delivery experience. Remote-controlled by operators located thousands of miles away will guide the delivery cart to customers up to three miles from the store location. It is also equipped with a camera and a speaker.
When the cart arrives at a home, the customer receives a text to come outside and pick up their groceries. The carts are specifically designed to ride at an average speed of 3 mph, and are 100% powered by an electric battery.
Earlier this year, Albertsons Companies — the country’s second-largest grocery chain that includes Pavilions, Safeway, and Vons — reportedly decided to fire their delivery drivers and replace them with independent contractors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Reported by KNOCK LA, the publication quoted an Albertsons representative who at the time of the decision sent the following statement: “We will transition that portion of our eCommerce operations to third-party logistics providers. While we know that this move will help us create a more efficient operation, it wasn’t a decision we made lightly or without a great deal of consideration.” Employees reportedly received notice that their employment would end one month into the new year during the holidays.
Prop. 22, the ballot measure passed by California voters in Nov., allowed the gig economy companies such as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and other app-based delivery services to classify their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. This means the companies can give their workers fewer protections around pay, healthcare, sick leave, and other benefits they’d be entitled to as employees.
In Southern California, Ralphs’ delivery is operated by Instacart, and Target uses Shipt. Now with both Albertsons and Vons moving in a similar direction, shoppers are left without a grocery delivery option that treats drivers as employees.
The remote-controlled delivery cart service is currently open for testing with Safeway associates only in select Northern California neighborhoods. In these early stages, a human escort will accompany the cart as part of the pilot process. Tortoise co-founder and president Dmitry Shevelenko reportedly said if the pilot is successful, he expects the pilot to continue to scale to other stores in the state and possibly throughout the West Coast.