Self-driving vehicles will start making Walmart home deliveries later this year in Austin, Texas; Miami; and Washington, D.C., autonomous vehicle tech company Argo AI announced Wednesday.
The last-mile service—a collaborative effort from Walmart, Argo AI and Ford Motor Co.—will use Ford self-driving test vehicles to deliver Walmart online orders to customers within a specified service area. Pittsburgh-based Argo AI is currently testing its self-driving tech on the roads in the three markets it will initially serve with Walmart as well as in Pennsylvania, Michigan and California, according to a news release.
The partnership with Argo AI is Walmart's first for multicity autonomous-vehicle delivery, Argo AI noted. But it's not Walmart's first foray into self-driving delivery service: In April, Walmart announced it was investing in San Francisco-based driverless car company Cruise, with which the retailer was piloting driverless delivery in Scottsdale, Ariz. And late last year, Walmart gave the thumbs-up for self-driving trucks to make deliveries from fulfillment centers to Walmart stores in the company's hometown of Bentonville, Ark. An early test of self-driving tech with Ford and delivery service Postmates took place in Miami back in 2018.
Walmart's launch of driverless delivery with Ford and Argo AI "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," Walmart U.S. SVP of last-mile delivery Tom Ward said in Argo AI's news release.
While a specific launch date for the three markets wasn't announced, "initial integration testing [is] slated to begin later this year," Argo AI stated. Service areas in the three markets will expand over time, according to the company.
To make it all work efficiently, Argo AI's cloud-based infrastructure will integrate with Walmart's online ordering platform to batch and route orders and schedule deliveries. "Our focus on the testing and development of self-driving technology that operates in urban areas where customer demand is high really comes to life with this collaboration," Argo AI founder and CEO Bryan Salesky said in the news release. Argo and Ford together are "aggressively preparing for large-scale autonomous vehicle operations across a broad footprint of U.S. cities," added Scott Griffith, chief of Ford's autonomous vehicles and mobility businesses.
"Pairing Walmart’s retail and e-commerce leadership with Argo and Ford’s self-driving operations across these multiple cities marks a significant step toward scaling a commercial goods delivery service that will ultimately power first-to-scale business efficiencies and enable a great consumer experience," Griffith said.