Technology

Cruise Control: Walmart Invests in Self-Driving Car Company

'Last-mile ecosystem' in focus with Walmart's investment in San Francisco-based Cruise
Walmart invests in Cruise self-driving cars
Photograph courtesy of Walmart

Looking to smooth out the bumps in the road for last-mile delivery, Walmart announced it is investing in self-driving car company Cruise.

Cruise, based in San Francisco, has been working with Walmart since November on a pilot delivery project in Scottsdale, Ariz. Scottsdale-area customers can place an online order from their local Walmart store for contact-free delivery by one of Cruise's driverless vehicles, which run on a GM-made electric platform.

Impressed with results of that trial so far and with Cruise's "differentiated business model, unique technology and unmatched driverless testing," Walmart U.S. President and CEO John Furner said Walmart is formally investing in the company, although the size of that investment wasn't disclosed.

"The investment will aid our work toward developing a last-mile delivery ecosystem that’s fast, low-cost and scalable," Furner said in a post on Walmart's website. It also represents an additional step toward Walmart's previously established goal of being powered by 100% renewable energy by 2035, Walmart noted. (The company is targeting zero emissions by 2040.)

"As delivery has become a staple in our customers' lives, we're focused on growing our last-mile ecosystem in a way that's beneficial for everyone–customers, business and the planet," Furner said. 

Cruise CEO Dan Ammann, who was president of GM from 2014 to 2018, wrote in a 2020 blog post that Cruise's "deep partnerships" with GM and Honda give it valuable automotive-industry roots. "But we didn’t just want to improve on the car," he wrote. "We wanted to reimagine transportation as if the car had never existed."

The company's Cruise Origin vehicles racked up nearly 1 million miles on San Francisco's crowded and challenging-to-navigate streets in 2019 while serving as a ride-share service for Cruise employees, Ammann noted. "Our self-driving cars handle urban driving, which is notoriously chaotic and unpredictable, exceptionally well," Ammann wrote, adding that the company is "looking at safer roads on day one."

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