Walmart is partnering with Ford Motor Company and Argo AI to launch an autonomous vehicle delivery service in Miami, Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. The effort, which utilizes Ford’s self-driving vehicle powered by the Argo AI Self-Driving System, will be Walmart’s first multi-city autonomous delivery collaboration in the U.S.
Walmart customers will be able to place orders and have them autonomously delivered directly to their homes. The service will begin in select areas of each city before expanding to other locations over time. The program was developed to help the companies better understand how autonomous vehicles can enhance the customer experience, particularly as same-day delivery grows in popularity.
“We’re excited to expand our autonomous delivery efforts in three new markets alongside Argo and Ford,” said Tom Ward, SVP of Last Mile Delivery at Walmart U.S. in a statement. “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.”
Walmart has been making strides in autonomous delivery over the past several years. Highlights include:
- Utilizing Udelv autonomous-driving vans to deliver fresh groceries in Surprise, Ariz.;
- Testing an all-electric self-driving car pilot in Scottsdale, Ariz. in partnership with Cruise; and
- Making deliveries from a Neighborhood Market in Bentonville, Ark. completely driverless through a collaboration with Gatik.
Amazon is currently Walmart’s chief competitor in this space. The company has been investing in its own research into autonomous driving capabilities, including through the acquisition of self-driving taxi company Zoox in 2020.
The retail giant isn’t afraid of thinking small, either. The Amazon Scout, a six-wheeled electric-powered delivery robot that can operate on sidewalks, was introduced in 2019 and continues making supervised deliveries to this day. The robots operate in certain parts of Snohomish County in Washington State and Irvine, Calif. during daylight hours, Monday through Friday, according to CB Insights.
Both Amazon and Walmart can expect competition to grow in this busy space. The global autonomous vehicle market was valued at more than $54.2 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach more than $2 trillion by 2030, according to data from Market Reports World. This rapid growth is expected to be fueled by benefits including reduced road-crash risk and enhanced safety and security.
However, the technology still has some challenges to overcome even as it goes more mainstream. High costs for components and software and hardware maintenance updates make autonomous vehicles a pricey investment for retail use. Additionally, increasing incidences of cyberattacks capable of hacking the vehicles’ operating systems could pose a potential security threat.