A new service is joining the likes of Postmates, Uber Eats, DoorDash, GoPuff, and others to bring your favorite snacks straight to your Dallas door—but this one has a twist.
Rather than ordering a driver, consumers in downtown Dallas will soon have the option to get their grocery staples delivered in under an hour by robot. Each robot drives at an average speed of around 3 mph, navigating around people, cars, pets, and obstacles as it maneuvers its way down a sidewalk.
These “Tortoise Carts” are about the size of a large cooler and remotely piloted by real people to ensure a safe arrival. The operator can then remotely open the cart, which can carry around 100 pounds of goods in sealed containers, when it arrives at its destination.
The robots are the result of a partnership between three industry leaders: Vroom Delivery, a Chicago-headquartered e-commerce provider for the convenience industry; Tortoise, a last-mile delivery robot operator based in Mountain View, California; and Urban Value Corner Store, a food and beverage retailer chain with stores in downtown Dallas and McKinney and a third store opening later this year in Frisco.
“In addition to the obvious contactless and environmental benefits, what we like about this concept is that this is also a very affordable solution for both the store and the consumer, significantly lowering the average cost of delivery,” John Nelson, the CEO of Vroom Delivery, said in a statement.
From milk and eggs to medications and more
The on-demand delivery will include thousands of products, including grocery staples like milk and eggs, beverages, ice cream, chips, and more. Alcohol and tobacco items will also be available for order from the same service, but given the age restrictions, human drivers will be delivering those.
Originally, a partnership was formed between Vroom and Tortoise to offer a contactless, zero-emission, affordable home delivery option to consumers. The companies aimed to mitigate sustainability and congestion—the robots are 100 percent electric, which removes the need for a delivery vehicle that takes up space on the roads and uses gas for fuel.
Founded in 2019 by a former Uber executive, Tortoise powers low-speed remote repositioning for low-speed, light electric vehicles. That could be anything from its Tortoise Carts to shared scooters to cleaning robots.
As for Vroom Delivery, it was founded in 2016 as a full-stack e-commerce solution for convenience stores. The company takes care of the technical aspect of operating and managing e-commerce and delivery services, deploying a network for stores within a matter of days.
Changing the way urban residents shop
Tortoise Co-Founder Dmitry Shevelenko says the companies chose Urban Value for the program because of its status as a leading convenience store chain in downtown Dallas.
In addition to a variety of food and beverages, Urban Value offers essential household items, OTC medications, pet snacks and toys, and Texas-made products. The company was originally formed to bring convenience and quality “as close to the doorstep as possible,” while changing the way urban residents shop in North Texas.
Customers can already order Urban Value for delivery through the Vroom platform. The robots will begin taking care of the last mile delivery responsibilities via a pilot deployment in the coming months. Urban Value will initially be piloting from its downtown location, with a larger rollout planned if it proves successful.
In the future, Vroom Delivery and Tortoise plan to make this same offering available to other convenience store chains across the country.
“We’re very excited to pilot this first-in-market contactless shopping opportunity,” Steve McKinley, CEO of Urban Value, said in a statement. “I expect that this technology combined with our diverse product offering will provide downtown Dallas residents and office staff a much more convenient shopping experience.”
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