Roaming the streets of China’s most populous city is a self-driving grocery store called “Moby,” developed by Sweden-based Wheelys. Solar-powered and with a mission to filter smoggy air, Moby is armed with artificial intelligence and no human staff. Instead, it features a 24/7 service and four drone pads for quick delivery.
Moby is still running in beta in Shanghai, as it is currently controlled by a human driver or remotely driven until self-driving is legalized in China. Products purchased are automatically tallied without the need for a checkout counter. Customers scan the barcode with their phones and the store charges the embedded card without requiring them to stand in line and wait for their turn, while those who can’t find what they’re looking for can seek support from Moby’s hologram assistant Hol. Moby also provides pharmacy services featuring first aid devices, as well as coffee shop services, in addition to an ATM.
The nearest Moby can be located or even summoned to your doorstep using a mobile app. Moby can detect when it needs to be restocked, and journeys to the warehouse to do so. Saving time and energy, and using cloud technology, Moby stores are able to locate one other and exchange surplus products with others that they need.
Wheelys developed the Moby store in cooperation with Himalafy, a company specialized in retail systems, and Hefei University. According to the developers, building the Moby store is far cheaper than building a traditional grocery store. In a city like Shanghai with a high population density and skyrocketing rents, Wheelys’ initiative could be good news to residents who are looking for an opportunity to launch a startup that won’t suck up all their savings and put them in debt. “The biggest costs to have a store are the place itself to rent in a central city–it’s ultra-expensive–and then staff is really expensive, and we’re removing both of these at the same time,” says Tomas Mazetti, one of the founders of Wheelys.