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04/15/2021

Walmart puts its money behind driverless electric delivery

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Walmart is moving from a pilot of self-driving electric vehicles into an investment.

The discount titan is joining a new $2.75 billion investment round in Cruise, a San Francisco-based autonomous vehicle startup which is owned by General Motors. Walmart began developing a pilot of contact-free digital order deliveries with Cruise driverless electric vehicles in Scottsdale, Ariz., in November 2020.

Walmart has piloted numerous autonomous delivery vehicles in the past few years, including a 2019 test of Nuro R2 driverless technology in Houston. The company’s partnership with Cruise is unique in that it involves vehicles which are powered with 100% renewable electric energy. A widespread rollout would help Walmart meet its pledge to reach zero emissions by 2040. The retailer has also set a goal to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2035.

Chief Walmart rival Amazon is also actively piloting and investing in electric delivery vehicles. Amazon is already testing electric vans it designed and built in partnership with manufacturer Rivian on delivery routes in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and plans to roll out the vehicles in 14 additional U.S. cities during 2021. The Rivian vans require human drivers.

“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,” John Furner, CEO, Walmart U.S., said in a corporate blog post. “With their all-electric fleet powered by 100% renewable energy, Cruise is a natural partner as we work to take collective action on climate change. We’re excited to join Cruise’s already impressive partner and investor ecosystem with the likes of GM, Honda and Microsoft as we work toward pioneering this emerging technology.”