Instacart plans to replace its gig shoppers with robots

Occurred: June 2021

Leaked documents revealed that US gig shopping company Instacart planned to replace its army of gig personal shoppers with robots, raising concerns about job losses at the company and more widely.

Documents shared with Bloomberg revealed the company was looking to build a series of large-scale, automated fulfillment centers across the country in which robots would fetch items such as cereal boxes, and humans collect fresh produce and deli products. 

According to the documents, larger facilities would process orders for several locations while others would be attached to existing supermarkets and grocery stores.

Instacart uses hundreds of thousands of gig workers to pick up and deliver orders to customers at their homes and offices. Automation is envisaged to cut costs, increase delivery times, and attract more customers. 

Analysts believe the plan may help reduce the likelihood that Instacart will be squeezed out by its grocery partners.

In early 2019, Instacart changed its pay algorithm after personal shoppers boycotted the company claiming it lowered their pay and customers complained on social media their orders were being delayed.

Operator: Instacart
Developer: Instacart
Country: USA
Sector: Transport/logistics
Purpose: Increase efficiency
Technology: Robotics
Issue: Employment - jobs; Ethics/values
Transparency: Governance

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Type: Issue
Published: December 2021
Last updated: June 2023