The world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer is rolling out an autonomous driving service by teaming up with Ford Motors and Argo AI, an autonomous vehicle platform startup.
The service will cover Miami, Washington DC, and Austin. At least one human safety driver will be in the vehicle.
For Walmart, this is not new. The retailer has made past incursions into self-driving technology and has put a lot of investment in autonomous vehicles.
But the new announcement marks Walmart’s first multi-city bet on the technology with a focus on expanding its grocery delivery business.
And Miami, DC, and Austin aren’t small cities either. Combined they cover roughly 15 million people taking the entire metro areas, or around 4.5 percent of the US population.
In early 2021, Walmart partnered with Cruise in Scottsdale, Arizona for grocery, as well as Gatik in its headquarters of Bentonville, Arkansas.
It’s also had partnerships with Google’s Waymo and Nuro.
Testing is limited to only one retail location in each of these three cities. If successful, they’ll no doubt expand to multiple stores.
Walmart is also one of the only big brick-and-mortar retailers with a presence in all 50 US states. So it can do it for not just grocery delivery but combine with passenger rides as well.
Though a heavily hyped-up technology, AV is a speculative strategy. We’re still in the early stages of autonomy and not yet close to mass rollout, but it’s one that can have big benefits down the line with the productivity enhancements it can create.