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Walmart partners with Ford for autonomous vehicle delivery pilot

Walmart is running its second pilot of self-driving Ford delivery vehicles since 2018.

Walmart is continuing to expand its efforts to fulfill online orders with self-driving delivery vehicles.

The discount giant, which previously collaborated with Ford and Postmates in November 2018 to test self-driving vehicles to deliver fresh groceries in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, is now working with Ford and autonomous vehicle technology platform Argo AI to launch an autonomous vehicle delivery service in Miami, Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

This effort marks Walmart’s first multi-city autonomous delivery collaboration in the U.S. Other previous self-driving delivery vehicle pilots include a January 2019 grocery delivery pilot with autonomous vehicle company Udelv in Surprise, Arizona. In July 2019, Walmart tested the use of autonomous vehicles from Gatik for “middle mile” transport of grocery products between stores in Bentonville, Ark.

Walmart’s latest autonomous delivery pilot will use Ford self-driving test vehicles equipped with the Argo AI Self-Driving System to deliver orders to customers. Argo’s cloud-based infrastructure, will integrate with Walmart’s online ordering platform to route orders and schedule package deliveries to customers’ homes.

The multi-city service will enable Walmart customers to place orders of groceries and other items online for door-to-door autonomous delivery directly to their homes. The service will be available to Walmart customers within defined service areas of the three markets and will expand over time, with initial integration testing slated to begin later in 2021.

As consumer expectations continue to shift to next-day or same-day delivery, especially in the urban core where there is a higher concentration of deliveries, Walmart hopes this collaboration will drive key learnings in how autonomous technology can enhance customer experiences while also optimizing logistics and operations.

The retailer is launching its latest autonomous delivery pilot shortly after introducing a new line of business called Walmart GoLocal, which delivers goods to customers of other businesses. Walmart is building the new Instacart-like service on the existing infrastructure supporting the Express Delivery same-day delivery service it rolled out in 2020, including drones, autonomous vehicles and market fulfillment centers.

"We're excited to expand our autonomous delivery efforts in three new markets alongside Argo and Ford,” said Tom Ward, senior VP of last-mile delivery, Walmart U.S. “This collaboration 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."

“Argo and Ford are aggressively preparing for large-scale autonomous vehicle operations across a broad footprint of U.S. cities,” said Scott Griffith, CEO, Ford Autonomous Vehicles & 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.”

“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,” said Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO, Argo AI. “Working together with Walmart and Ford across three markets, we’re showing the potential for autonomous vehicle delivery services at scale.”

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