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12/16/2020

Walmart Expands to Test Fully-Driverless Delivery

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Senior Editor
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Walmart is moving forward to test driverless middle-mile delivery in Arkansas and expand its autonomous pilot with a safety driver to Louisiana.

Walmart began its autonomous vehicle pilot with Gatik last year, to move customer orders on a two-mile route between a dark store and a Neighborhood Market store in Bentonville, AR.  After driving more than 70,000 operational miles in autonomous mode with a safety driver, the retailer will operate the middle-mile route driverless.

In addition to testing driverless, Walmart says after testing Gatik’s multi-temperature Autonomous Box Trucks in Bentonville it has learned how it “might use autonomous vehicles to transfer customer orders from a dark store to a live store” and is expanding the pilot. It will expand to a second location to test a longer delivery route and a last mile use case – delivering items from a Supercenter to a Walmart pickup point.

The operation will begin early next year on a 20-mile route between New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana. The Autonomous Box Trucks in Louisiana will initially operate with a safety driver.

“With 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart, a closer store isn’t always the answer,” said Tom Ward, SVP of customer product, Walmart U.S. “Perhaps it’s just a pickup location, with an autonomous vehicle making deliveries on a constant loop. Our trials with Gatik are just two of many use cases we’re testing with autonomous vehicles, and we’re excited to continue learning how we might incorporate them in a delivery ecosystem.”

Gatik’s multi-temperature Autonomous Box Trucks will operate this route driverless in the state of Arkansas. This achievement marks a new milestone that signifies the first ever driverless operation carried out on the supply chain middle mile for both Gatik and Walmart.

When we begin incorporating driverless Box Trucks into the Bentonville operation next year, the pilot will continue as it always has. But now, we’ll be working with Gatik to monitor and gather new data to help us stay on the leading edge of driverless autonomous vehicles.

Going driverless isn’t our only development, either. We’ve tested multi-temperature Autonomous Box Trucks on a small scale in Bentonville and have learned how we might use autonomous vehicles to transfer customer orders from a dark store to a live store. Now, we’re expanding our pilot with Gatik to a second location to test an even longer delivery route and a second use case – delivering items from a Supercenter to a Walmart pickup point, a designated location where customers can conveniently pick up their orders. The Autonomous Box Trucks in Louisiana will initially operate with a safety driver.