Self-driving Shopping Carts Could Greet You at Walmart

By Carl Engelking | September 13, 2016 11:53 am

The Roomba-like device, seen under the cart, would slide into position and pull the cart. (Credit: U.S. Patent Office)

If it has wheels, there’s a good chance someone, somewhere is going figuring out how to make it roll on its own.

Last week, for example, the United States government granted Walmart’s patent request (thank you, Patent Yogi) for a system of self-driving shopping carts. Forget yanking carts from a train of clanking metal, or wheeling the things back to their corrals after your car is loaded.

The carts themselves won’t change; instead, a fleet of Roomba-like transport units would slide under carts and ferry them through the store.

According to Walmart’s patent request, customers will be able to summon one of these cart-pullers — each equipped with cameras and sensors — with their “user interface device”, perhaps a smartphone app, and a motorized unit will attach to a cart parked in a docking station and pull it to the customer. Once customer and cart meet, the transport unit will serve as a personal store escort.

For example, customers could wirelessly beam their shopping list to their cart chauffeur and it’ll guide them through the store item-by-item, according to the request. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Just type it into your “interface device” and follow your cart. The transport units, in theory, will also round up carts adrift in the parking lot and return them to their docking station.

Just as a reminder, this is only a patent. It isn’t clear when, or if, the system will be deployed in Walmart stores. However, it does offer a glimpse at the future of shopping — if you still shop in brick-and-mortar stores.

Let’s just hope the cart taxi sensors and cameras will be sensitive enough to avoid slamming a cart into the back of your ankle.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: computers, robots
  • Uncle Al

    Homeland Severity tapped Walmart’s shoulder. The ammo shelves are now bare of 12 ga. 00 buck and Remington Sluggers, .357 hollow points, and effective .308 rounds. One presumes a “smart” cart would redirect me to Airsoft consummables slathered with “Choking Hazard” stickers.

    NO SALE.

  • Meaning in Movies

    This seems likely geared toward pulling items for drive-through shopping. It could help save time pulling individual’s online orders and transferring them to the drive-thru pickup station.

  • whatsthatagain

    I’d still somehow manage to get the cart with a wobbly, flat spotted wheel that goes crunk, crunk, crunk, crunk…

  • Susan Rand

    WM says I can shop online and my order will be delivered to my car. I haven’t used it yet, but as a handicapped person, I admit it has appeal. I commend WM for innovation as well as lower prices.

    • Angela Cunningham

      We need to think outside the cart and get rid of it. Obsolete, 0 information and not required.
      We should have options that are smart.
      A. Order from wherever you are in the world.
      B. This is confirmed and delivered when we ask for it
      C. Hand me a scanner, I will scan what I want. Hand this to the clerk, enjoy a new taste treat while it is packed or check out leave and have delivered or return at x to pick up
      Life should be simple. Everyone is busy and just wants to complete this mundane task.
      D. The flat roofs make the perfect area for a giant Hydroponic garden. In America we could grow all the fresh veg and fruit and herbs locally. Here we could go and walk through or visit a fresh stand of morning picked cherry tomatoes. Now that is innovation, feed a nation.


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