Walmart aims to deliver goods via self-driving vehicles this year.
What’s new: The retail giant will test autonomous delivery in three U.S. cities. Cars built by Ford and piloted by Argo AI will ferry merchandise directly to the customer’s front steps.
How it works: The service initially will be limited to parts of Austin, Miami, and Washington, D.C.
- Argo is integrating its cloud-based vehicle routing system with Walmart’s online ordering platform. When a customer places an order, the system will schedule a vehicle to make the delivery.
- The Pittsburgh startup’s self-driving technology relies on radar, cameras, and a proprietary lidar sensor.
Behind the news: Walmart has been testing automated delivery services using technology from Cruise, Gatik, and Waymo. Nuro, which also has partnered with Walmart, focuses on autonomous delivery on the grounds that it lowers requirements for riding comfort and permits slower, and thus safer, driving.
Why it matters: Although self-driving vehicles aren’t ready for widespread use, the partnership between one of the world’s largest retailers and one of the world’s biggest auto makers signals potential for near-term commercial applications.
We’re thinking: Fully self-driving cars likely will reach the market through a vertical niche, which is easier than building vehicles that can handle all circumstances. Some companies focus on trucking, others on local shuttles, still others on transportation within constrained environments such as ports or campuses. Although self-driving has taken longer than expected to come to fruition, we remain optimistic that experiments like these will bear fruit.