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Amazon 'Dash Carts' come to Whole Foods in California test market

Kate Bradshaw, The Mercury News on

Published in Business News

Amazon has begun testing new high-tech shopping carts at a Whole Foods market in San Mateo, California, that scan your items as you go. When you finish shopping, you skip the cash register lines and simply walk out of the store with your groceries. It’s the first test market in California and only the sixth in the U.S.

The San Mateo store has 15 of these green, tech-enabled shopping carts, called Dash Carts, which are decked out with multiple scanners and a screen to guide users through the shopping process. The carts use computer vision algorithms and sensor fusion tech to scan and weigh grocery items, and shoppers can use the screens to search what’s in stock and where to find it.

Amazon spokesperson Natalie Banke explained the cart’s features on Friday, as she pushed the cart down Whole Foods aisles, picking up groceries for her own use. Scanning a code on the Amazon app connects the cart with your Amazon Prime account, which also syncs up any Prime discounts. Shoppers use a scale on the cart to weigh items like lettuce and bananas, then enter the item’s product code. The screen provides the item’s cost for approval, before you add those greens or fruit to the cart, which is pre-loaded with shopping bags, so you’re bagging as you go.

When Banke needed a specific item, the shopping cart’s search function displayed a map indicating the aisle where her preferred brand of diapers, for example, were located. Into the cart, the diapers went.

When she was ready to check out, Banke wheeled over to the Dash Cart lane and rolled right through to complete her purchases and head to the parking lot. If she had been buying alcohol, she could still have purchased it via the Dash Cart, but would have needed to present her ID for verification.

 

It’s not Amazon’s first foray into tech-assisted grocery shopping, of course. You can shop for groceries online, and the company also rolled out its Amazon One palm scanning to all 500 Whole Foods markets last year, allowing pre-enrolled grocery shoppers to use the palms of their hands to complete transactions.

No news as yet on where or when the smart carts might debut in other Whole Foods markets, but it’s early days yet. The San Mateo Whole Foods at 1010 Park Place rolled out its Dash Carts only a few weeks ago. On Friday, a few shoppers were using the carts for the first time; many were still using traditional shopping carts.

“So far, so good,” says Brandon Daniel, the market’s associate brand manager. The carts require more maintenance than an old-school cart — the batteries are charged daily overnight — but he likes to see people whizzing through the Dash Cart lane, especially on weekends when the store lines are long. “Every week I see more and more people using it.”


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