Customers of The Produce Station grocery store on South State Street in Ann Arbor can now have their items delivered by a REV-1 robot developed by Refraction AI Inc. Since last year, the company has been using its autonomous machines, which weigh about 100 pounds and are about the size of a bicycle, to deliver takeout food from a handful of local restaurants.
The new expansion into grocery delivery was an easy decision in the era of COVID-19 when people are reluctant to go into stores, said Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder and CEO of Refraction AI.
“Particularly with greater awareness around food deserts and our inability to serve underserved communities with food, I think that the ability to get food from grocery stores to people is a thing that we want to make easier, and more importantly, more safe,” he said.
During a time when restaurants in particular have struggled due to monthslong state-mandated closures except for takeout and delivery, Johnson-Rogerson said he hopes that the company’s flat fee to stores will be beneficial. It’s up to stores and restaurants whether to pass along any costs to customers, he said.