Walmart takes self-driving pilot to the next level with driverless deliveries

Date : 15 December 2020

Stewart Samuel

Program Director - Canada

Walmart is expanding its existing pilot programme with Gatik to test driverless deliveries. It is also going to test a longer route in Louisiana.

Testing along the middle-mile

Walmart initially partnered with autonomous vehicle company, Gatik, last year in Bentonville, Arkansas. The retailer has been using Gatik’s ‘Autonomous Box Trucks’ to move customer orders on a two-mile route between a dark store and a Neighborhood Market. Often referred to as the middle-mile, the two companies have safely driven over 70,000 operational miles, accompanied by a safety driver. They will now work on testing the technology in full autonomous mode, without a safety driver. The middle-mile is considered a good application for this technology as it is a known, routine journey for the vehicles.

Source: Walmart

Testing a longer route

The two companies are also expanding their test to Louisiana. Operating initially with a safety driver the trucks will navigate a 20-mile route between New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana. They will take customer orders from a Walmart Supercenter to a Walmart pickup point. In 2018, the retailer opened a stand-alone drive-thru pickup location in Metairie, at the time, its third in the country.

Broad range of tests to help Walmart better understand the technology

Walmart has undertaken several pilots in this space, including programmes with Nuro in Houston, and Udelv in Surprise, Arizona. It has also worked with Ford and Waymo, Google’s self-driving project. Next year it plans to partner with GM-owned self-driving car company, Cruise, to pilot grocery deliveries in Arizona. These tests will help Walmart to better understand how autonomous vehicles can be incorporated into a broader delivery ecosystem and improve channel profitability. This is a priority for all online grocery retailers following the significant surge in growth this year, driven by the pandemic.

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