An autonomous, staffless mobile store, Wheelys Moby Mart, has started undergoing beta testing in Shanghai.
Its makers say it has the potential to turn any parking space into a 24-hour store, and they are even working on a self-driving version that goes to customers.
The Moby offers products for immediate consumption, such as milk, lunch or medicine, over the counter and around the clock. Customers simply enter the store, take what they need and leave. Other items, from light bulbs to computers, can be ordered in advance for pick-up.
Using AI, patented inventions and the cloud, the Moby turns technology invisible. It runs on electricity provided by solar panels, and with an integrated air purifier does not pollute, but actually cleans up.
The Moby Mart was devised by cafe-bike company Wheelys in collaboration with Hefei University in China and Himalafy, a company that provides technology for unstaffed retail outlets.
Wheelys, an American startup that raised money from visionaries such as Paul Buchheit of Gmail and Justin Waldron of Zynga, has sold 700 cafes to more than 70 countries over the past 18 months.
At the end of last year Wheelys acquired Naraffar, the world’s first system of staffless stores that launched in Sweden more than a year before Amazon Go was announced.
Naraffar’s system has been incorporated into Wheelys’ new self-driving, mobile supermarket, a full-service convenience store on wheels. Instead of people going to the store, the store goes to the people. The stores are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a week, with the entire shopping experience done using an app. Customers simply open the doors, take what they need and leave. Wheelys has multiple patent pendings for the system.
The stores can be placed anywhere – in a city center, in a suburban driveway or in a village.
Wheelys says it is setting up production in China and estimates each store will cost less than $100,000, about a tenth of the price to build a traditional store.
Combined with the possibility to deliver parcels, re-stock itself and deploy in fleets, Wheelys says the Moby Mart is a glimpse of the radical new future of retail.