A discount giant is expanding its testing of autonomous vehicles for online grocery delivery.
Walmart is launching a new pilot with autonomous vehicle company Nuro in Houston. The pilot will enable customers in Houston to opt in to receive deliveries of online grocery orders from self-driving Nuro vehicles. These will include Nuro’s custom-built R2 delivery vehicle that carries only products with no onboard driver or passengers, and autonomous Toyota Priuses, all powered by Nuro’s proprietary self-driving software and hardware.
Through the Houston-based pilot, Walmart aims to develop, refine and continue learning how to offer the best end-to-end customer experience. The service plans to expand to the general public later in 2020.
“As we near the end of 2019, we’ve grown our online grocery footprint to nearly 3,100 pickup locations with deliveries coming from more than 1,600 stores – powered by Walmart’s team of over 50,000 personal shoppers,” Tom Ward, senior VP, digital operations for Walmart U.S., said in a corporate blog post announcing the pilot. “Along the way, we’ve been test-driving a number of different options for getting groceries from our stores to our customers’ front doors through self-driving technology. We believe this technology is a natural extension of our grocery pickup and delivery service and our goal of making every day a little easier for customers.”
Walmart has been actively piloting different autonomous vehicle technologies as a means of delivering online grocery orders. In January 2019, the retailer initiated a pilot with autonomous vehicle company Udelv in Surprise, Ariz. The program will test the effectiveness of custom-made driverless cargo vans from Udelv in delivering groceries handpicked by Walmart personal shoppers to customers.
In November 2018, Walmart partnered with Ford Motor Co. and Postmates to test self-driving vehicles to deliver fresh groceries in Florida’s Miami-Dade County. The pilot uses Ford driverless cars to deliver fresh groceries hand-picked by Walmart’s personal shoppers.
Walmart is not the first retailer to test the effectiveness of Nuro autonomous vehicles for delivery. Kroger, a direct competitor with Walmart in the grocery space, has piloted self-driving deliveries with Nuro vehicles in Houston and Scottsdale, Ariz. And in December 2019, pizza chain Domino’s began testing the Nuro R2 for opt-in online deliveries at select Houston stores.