Ford Motor Co. and Walmart Inc. have started a joint pilot to explore how they can use self-driving vehicles to deliver groceries and other consumer goods.
The automaker made the announcement Wednesday. The project has begun in the Miami area, where Ford has set up operations for a business revolving around autonomous vehicles that executives expect to launch commercially in 2021.
Over the next several months, Ford and Walmart will join forces to understand each other's operations and identify which goods are best for automated delivery. They'll examine vehicle configurations or modifications needed to meet customer demands.
"Like us, Walmart believes that self-driving vehicles have an important role to play in the future of delivery, and that true success comes from first learning how individuals want to use them in their daily lives," said Brian Wolf, business lead in Ford Autonomous Vehicles, a subsidiary set up to handle the automaker's self-driving business ventures. "Together, we'll be gathering crucial data about consumer preferences and learning the best way we can conveniently connect people with the goods they need."
Ford has conducted ride-hailing and delivery test operations since February in Miami, completing more than 1,000 deliveries while working with partners that range from national pizza companies to local dry-cleaning businesses.
One of those partners, delivery platform Postmates, will play a crucial role in the Ford-Walmart collaboration. Walmart has used Postmates and other networks to deliver groceries. Separately, Ford has worked with Postmates on vehicle dispatch and routing systems in its Miami pilot.
Because Ford and Walmart have worked with Postmates, the companies intend to use that infrastructure to get their pilot "up and running quickly," according to Ford.