General Motors is getting into the business of grocery store carts, but not the usual kind with that one squeaky, wobbly wheel.

GM’s BrightDrop unit has signed Kroger, the nation’s largest supermarket chain, to be the first customer for its new temperature-controlled Trace Grocery “eCart” for online order fulfillment starting later this year.

BrightDrop, which GM formed in 2021 to make electric delivery vans, conducted a pilot with Kroger in Kentucky, where it said the grocer experienced “a noticeable improvement in the customer and associate experience.”

“COVID has driven a dramatic increase in online grocery shopping, and fulfilling these orders profitably has become a major challenge for retailers of all sizes. With the Trace Grocery, we saw an opportunity to help companies like Kroger tackle these challenges head on,” BrightDrop CEO Travis Katz said in a statement. “As online shopping continues to grow, BrightDrop is committed to developing innovative solutions to help our customers keep pace. The Trace Grocery is a perfect example of this.”

The unit, built on BrightDrop’s Trace platform for last-mile delivery, allows employees to put items directly into its nine compartments and park it at the curb outside for customers to access their order. It digitally verifies a customer’s identity, so an employee does not need to be involved in the pickup process.

BrightDrop says the Trace Grocery keeps items at food-safe temperatures for up to four hours, has an electric motor that moves the unit at up to 3 mph to match an operator’s walking speed, can hold up to 350 pounds of groceries and is weatherproof. It plans to deploy the unit on a larger scale in 2024.

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