Shopping Carts

Self-driving shopping carts?

Shopping carts are a vital part of retail stores. They let customers buy more than they could carry, they haul the small children around and they get stolen oh so often. According to the Food Marketing Institute in Washington D.C., annual costs due to cart theft is around $800 million.

Shopping carts, trolleys in British English, and Australian English, or buggies as known by me, is a 4 wheeled cart, pushed standing up, and made of metal or plastic. Many cars and trucks, mine included, have been bumped and scratched or dented by runaway carts left by inconsiderate people loose in a parking lot.

Sylvan Nathan Goldman was an American businessman and inventor of the shopping cart on June 4, 1937. His design had a pair of large wire baskets connected by tubular metal arms with four wheels. Since they were inspired by the folding chair, Goldman called his carts “folding basket carriers”. The cart was awarded patent number 2,196,914 on April 9, 1940 (Filing date: March 14, 1938), titled, “Folding Basket Carriage for Self-Service Stores”.

Orla E. Watson was an American inventor, engineer, and draftsman. He is most remembered for his invention of the rear swinging door feature on grocery shopping carts allowing the cart to telescope, or “nest” in order to save space. He was granted a patent #2,479,530 on August 16, 1949, for the “Telescope Cart” which could be “nested” together in order to save space without disassembly after each use. Up to that point, the most common design in use at grocery stores within the United States

Goldman would apply for and be awarded patent #US2689133A, September 14, 1984. It was listed as “Nesting Type Store Service Truck” which is basically what we use today. It has one large, deep, basket and a lower rack for bulky items. Carts were outfitted with seats for children beginning in the mid-1950s. These seats cemented the grocery cart as a supermarket necessity. Goldman retired as head of Goldman Enterprises in 1982 after amassing a $200 million + fortune, partly from the shopping cart and the Humpty-Dumpty retail food chain.

One of the ways stores try to get customers to return their cart to the storage rack is to require a deposit. Aldi carts are a quarter that you get gat when you return the cart. This is not enough money to excite most people so I’ll often make a couple of bucks returning the carts strowed in the parking lot.

In Australia, deposit systems are common in some local government areas, as they have been made compulsory by local law. Usually, all ALDI stores, and most Coles and Woolworths stores will have a lock mechanism on their carts that requires a $1 or $2 coin to unlock.

Most retailers in North America use a cart retrieval service that will recover carts and return then to the stores for a fee. A drawback of this method is that it is reactive, instead of proactively preventing the carts from leaving the store premises. Stray shopping carts pose safety issues for pedestrians and motorists as well as contribute to blight.

Electronic systems are sometimes used by retailers. Each shopping cart is fitted with an electronic locking wheel clamp, or “boot”. A transmitter with a thin wire is placed around the perimeter of the parking lot, and the boot locks when the cart leaves the designated area. Store personnel must then deactivate the lock with a handheld remote control to return the cart to stock.

There are services that will go right to the stores and repair their shopping carts. Cart repair is critical when controlling costs, ensuring safety & maintaining shopper satisfaction. They advertise that they carry a large inventory of shopping cart replacement parts, as well as specially trained personnel to perform on-site cleaning and repair of a wide range of supermarket and retail equipment.

In 2012, a driverless shopping cart was made by Chaotic Moon Labs. The device, called “Project Sk8” or “Smarter Cart” was basically a cart fitted with Windows Kinect (to detect obstacles), and an electric drivetrain, and used in conjunction with a Windows 8 tablet.

Walmart has filed patents and is working on a self driving shopping cart. Essentially cutting out the need for cart pushers. The carts are going to be able to basically drive themselves and will be controlled most likely from a smartphone app.

It will allow customers to pull up the app. and “call” a shopping cart which will undock itself, and thanks to a small onboard motor, will be able to locate you via GPS and drive itself to you.

The system will, in theory, be able to identify an unattended shopping cart in a store or parking lot and return it to a docking station, according to the filing. No word yet on when Walmart plans on unveiling these carts to the public.


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Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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