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Walmart taps self-driving vehicle startup Cruise for autonomous deliveries

Dive Brief:

  • Walmart is piloting contactless deliveries with a self-driving car company, Cruise, in Scottsdale, Arizona, the retailer announced on Tuesday.
  • Starting in early 2021, customers can have orders delivered from local Walmart locations through Cruise’s self-driving electric cars. The partnership is part of the retailer’s overall autonomous vehicle testing — an effort to understand the technology’s role in retail going forward, the company said.
  • Cruise’s fleet of self-driving cars consists of only electric vehicles. The collaboration supports Walmart’s goal of reaching zero emissions by 2040, per the company statement.

Dive Insight:

As with many things Walmart does, the mass merchant is interested in self-driving vehicles because of the potential to save customers’ time and money, as well as ease environmental impact, Tom Ward, senior vice president of Customer Product at Walmart U.S., wrote in the announcement.

The partnership with Cruise is a continuation of the company’s overall efforts to modernize its delivery services for customers. After launching its Express Delivery service in April, the retailer has expanded the program across more than 2,800 stores and now reaches more than 65% of U.S. households, Ward noted.

In addition to adding Cruise to its self-driving vehicle roster, Walmart has tested autonomous deliveries elsewhere. In December 2019, the company partnered with Nuro to deliver groceries in Houston via autonomous vehicles. The retailer has also worked with Gatik on applying autonomous vehicles to middle-mile logistics.

As Walmart grows its assortment of autonomous vehicles, other retailers have been testing the technology as well. CVSand UPS have tapped Nuro and Waymo, respectively, for their self-driving vehicle delivery capabilities. On the other hand, Amazon announced that it was testing its own delivery robots in January 2019.

As retailers test self-driving delivery capabilities, interest in autonomous vehicle companies has continued to grow. Back in January, Waymo expanded tests of its autonomous long-haul trucks to Texas and New Mexico, while earlier this week, Nuro landed $500 million in Series C funding.

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