Delivery of goods is commercializing autonomous vehicle technology much faster than transportation of people is, and that gives Walmart a pole position in the race to use driverless vehicles.
America's largest retailer already revolutionized logistics once, beginning a half-century ago, with the industry's first major distribution centers and its launch of "continuous replenishment" of goods in stores. Now, the iconic chain of 4,700 U.S. stores, based in Bentonville, Ark., has deployed a series of autonomous test vehicles, applying lessons learned during the curbside-pickup craze sparked by the coronavirus pandemic while leveraging Walmart's legendary ability to optimize supply chains continuously.
Walmart recently invested in DroneUp, a drone-services provider. Last year, the companies partnered with Quest Diagnostics to conduct trial deliveries of at-home COVID-19 testing kits. That followed Walmart's investment in Cruise, the AV outfit started by General Motors, after Walmart launched a delivery pilot with Cruise in Scottsdale, Ariz., last year.
The company also has been piloting deliveries in Arkansas by autonomous box trucks in a partnership with startup Gatik, and this year they're removing the safety driver.
Since 2019, Walmart has been piloting driverless grocery deliveries with Nuro, a robotics startup that also is partnering with other major companies including Domino's.