Walmart Readies for Waymo Self-Driving Cars

Retailer will begin testing ‘grocery chauffeur’ service in Chandler, Ariz.

Walmart and Waymo are teaming up for a pilot program that will give consumers the opportunity to fulfill grocery pickups with the help of the latter’s autonomous vehicles.

The online grocery pilot project partnership between Walmart and Waymo will be conducted out of one of Walmart stores in Chandler, Ariz., and “will be limited to a group within Waymo’s 400 daily users known as ‘early riders,’” said Tom Ward, Walmart’s VP of digital operations, Walmart U.S., in a blog post on the retailer’s corporate website.

Participants in the pilot project will place an online grocery pickup order on Walmart's website, which will be filled by the retailer’s team of personal shoppers, per their requested pickup times. Waymo will then “transport customers to and from pickup, and all the while, those customers can text, nap, work ... you name it,” Ward said. Walmart  is “always thinking of ways we can serve our customers now and into the future," he said. "And we’re looking at different technology and capabilities that keep customers loving the time-saving, wallet-saving service that is online grocery for years to come.”

Walmart’s small test project with Waymo—which began as Google’s self-driving car project in 2009 and which has since become an independent self-driving technology company—is aimed to help the retailer learn “while giving customers a unique experience with amazing technology ... [and] make Walmart online grocery pickup even more convenient,” Ward said.

Waymo has been operating autonomous vehicles in the Phoenix area since October with the help of its early rider program, which transports its volunteer riders in its self-driving cars to common places.

“We know from our early riders that most of their rides are to run errands, shop for groceries, commute to work, head to dinner or fix their personal vehicles,” according to a recent blog post on Waymo’s website, which lists its riders' top 10 errand and shopping destinations.

“Riders spend a significant portion of time each week running errands and shopping," the blog post said. "That’s why we’re launching two pilots with Walmart and DDR Corp.,” the latter of which is a publicly traded real estate investment trust that invests in shopping centers.

The Waymo/Walmart test pilot launched this week follows The Kroger Co.’s late June announcement that it will begin experimenting with Silicon Valley robotics firm Nuro’s unmanned vehicles this fall. Kroger customers will place orders through its online ClickList ordering system and Nuro’s app. The orders will be delivered by Nuro’s fleet of autonomous vehicles.



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