Hundreds of robotic custodians will soon be scrubbing the floors at Walmart.
The retailer announced this week that it’s expanding the number of robot floor sweepers it’s already using.
The Auto-C (Autonomous Cleaner) scrubbing machines are now in 78 stores. The company will use the robots in around 360 stores by the end of January.
The machines navigate the stores to clean and polish floors using sensors, which help them steer around people and other obstacles.
The sensors also collect data, which the robots can upload into a store’s cloud-based platform. A Walmart spokesman told NBC News that the robots could, for instance, collect data on which shelves are empty.
Walmart said the robots should free up time for its employees to do other jobs besides scrubbing floors, including “tidying restrooms, dust-mopping the checkout aisles, or engaging with customers.”
The robots do, however, need a little help from humans to get started. An employee maps out a robot’s routes during an initial training ride. After that, the Auto-C is on its own.
The expansion of robotic floor cleaning is Walmart’s latest experiment in automation.
The company has also introduced an automated shelf scanner to check for items that are incorrectly priced or out of stock, and the “Alphabot,” which hauls products from storage to help fill online orders.