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Walmart, Udelv to Test Autonomous Delivery

Pilot to utilize newly launched Newton fleet
Udelv vehicle for Walmart
Photograph courtesy of Walmart

Walmart has made a deal with Udelv to test the company’s self-driving delivery vans to cart online grocery orders to shoppers in Arizona.

San Francisco-based Udelv said the trial will begin next month. It will utilize the company’s latest custom-made cargo van, dubbed the Newton, which is built on a Ford Transit Connect chassis. It is capable of traveling at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour and features an adaptable cargo system that will accommodate various types of packages and weights. Udelv said the system will be capable of carrying up to 32 customer orders per delivery cycle, offering the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of fulfilling last-mile orders for delivery.

The vans will operate with safety drivers until both companies and regulators deem them approved for a safe removal of the safety driver, Udelv said.

Tom Ward, SVP of digital operations for Walmart, in a blog post emphasized the experimental nature of the deal, “but we want to make sure we stay on the cutting edge of grocery delivery by exploring what’s new and next. For example, we recently explored a few pilot projects with other self-driving car companies to start understanding how customers will want to use the technology when it comes to their grocery shopping.”

These include an ongoing test of driverless delivery with Waymo in Chandler, Ariz., and a more recently announced test in Miami. The Udelv vans will deliver from a store in Surprise, Ariz. Last month, Walmart rival Kroger began making its first deliveries in Chandler via driverless vans from Nuro.

Udelv has previously announced delivery programs with retailers Farmstead, Draeger’s Market and Buy 4 Less. The startup's CEO Daniel Laury called the Walmart deal a “breakthrough” in its mission to reinvent delivery and integrate self-driving delivery vans into everyday life.

“America’s leading retailers know to stay competitive and continue to provide outstanding customer shopping experiences [that] they need to stay ahead of the curve and lead the market with the adoption of new technology. Walmart is a forward-thinking business that consistently invests in providing value to its customers and our trial builds on this commitment,” Laury said in a statement.

“We’ve tested and proven our capability to successfully and safely make deliveries to American shoppers. With over 1,200 deliveries on public roads with a safety driver already completed in the San Francisco Bay Area on behalf of more than a dozen paying clients, Udelv is ready to work closely with America’s largest retailers to bring convenience and savings to millions of customers.”

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