Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is teaming up with car maker Ford Motor and autonomous driving technology platform Argo AI to expand its self-driving vehicle delivery programme in three US cities.
The Arkansas-based retailer will use Ford’s hybrid vehicles equipped with Argo’s technology for deliveries in Miami, Washington and Austin. The initial testing is expected to start before the end of this year, the companies said.
“This collaboration will further our mission to get products to the homes of our customers with unparalleled speed and ease and, in turn, will continue to pave the way for autonomous delivery,” Tom Ward, senior vice president of last mile delivery at Walmart said.
Walmart has tested autonomous deliveries extensively in the past. In 2018, the retailer teamed up with Ford for another limited pilot programme to test autonomous deliveries. They used simulated self-driving vehicles to understand customers' responses and observe the user experience of delivering groceries in Miami-Dade County in Florida.
In November, Walmart collaborated with Cruise, the all-electric subsidiary of US car maker General Motors, to deliver groceries and other items.
The new multi-city service with Ford and Argo will allow Walmart customers to place online orders that will be delivered to their homes using autonomous vehicles.
“Argo and Ford are aggressively preparing for large-scale autonomous vehicle operations across a broad footprint of US cities,” said Scott Griffith, chief executive of Ford autonomous vehicles and mobility businesses.
“Pairing [with] Walmart’s retail and e-commerce leadership … marks a significant step towards scaling a commercial goods delivery service that will ultimately power first-to-scale business efficiencies and enable a great consumer experience.”
Many companies are experimenting with robots and autonomous technology to deliver food, medicines and other essential items to reduce the scope of human contact amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In April, Domino's, the world largest pizza company by retail sales, teamed up with California-based self-driving delivery company Nuro to offer autonomous pizza deliveries in the US.
San Francisco-based start-up Starship Technologies last year began its food delivery boxes on wheels business in various parts of the US and the UK.
“Working together with Walmart and Ford across three markets, we’re showing the potential for autonomous vehicle delivery services at scale,” Bryan Salesky, founder and chief executive of Argo AI said.
The Pittsburgh-based company is developing self-driving technology in partnership with leading car makers, including Ford and Volkswagen. Employing more than 1,400 people, Argo is currently testing autonomous vehicles on public roads in Miami, Austin, Washington, Pennsylvania, Michigan and California.
Argo and Ford have been operating in Miami and Washington since 2018 and in Austin since 2019 to build autonomous ride-hailing and delivery services.