Walmart expands driverless delivery pilot to Arkansas, Louisiana

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Walmart self-driving truck

Walmart is moving forward with an autonomous vehicle pilot that moves groceries between stores.

In July 2019, the discount titan started testing the efficacy of self-driving vehicles from Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup Gatik in transporting customer grocery orders on a two-mile route between a dark store which stocks items for fulfillment but isn’t open to the public and a Neighborhood Market store in Bentonville, Ark. Since then, Walmart says it has safely driven more than 70,000 operational miles during this pilot in autonomous mode with a safety driver.

Now, Walmart is moving forward with the pilot. The retailer will utilize Gatik multi-temperature autonomous box trucks in the state of Arkansas. This signifies the first-ever driverless operation carried out on the supply chain “middle mile” for both Gatik and Walmart.

When Walmart begins incorporating driverless box trucks into its Bentonville operation in 2021, the pilot will continue. Walmart will work with Gatik to monitor and gather new data. The retailer has also tested multi-temperature autonomous box trucks on a small scale in Bentonville and has learned how it might use autonomous vehicles to transfer customer orders from a dark store to a live store. 

In addition, Walmart is expanding its pilot with Gatik to a second location in Louisiana to test an even longer delivery route with a second use case of delivering items from a Supercenter store to a Walmart pickup point - a designated location where customers can pick up their orders. 

The Louisiana pilot will initially operate using trucks with a safety driver, and begin in early 2021 on a 20-mile route between New Orleans and Metairie, La. 

“With 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart, a closer store isn’t always the answer,” Tom Ward, senior VP of customer product, Walmart U.S., said in a corporate blog post. “Perhaps it’s just a pickup location, with an autonomous vehicle making deliveries on a constant loop. Our trials with Gatik are just two of many use cases we’re testing with autonomous vehicles, and we’re excited to continue learning how we might incorporate them in a delivery ecosystem.”