On Wednesday, Walmart, Ford and Argo AI, an autonomous car startup that has the automaker’s backing, announced that they would collaborate to make deliveries in multiple cities in the nation. The new partnership is its first multi city one and will help the retail giant to scale autonomous vehicle delivery services.
The companies announced that they will use Ford Escape hybrids with Argo AI technology to deliver items from Walmart in three cities: Miami, Florida, Austin, Texas, and the District of Columbia. As per the program, customers of Walmart in these three cities will place orders for groceries and other items online. The orders will be sent door-to-door autonomously.
CNBC reported that an Argo spokeswoman said that they would deploy a small fleet, in the beginning in the three cities and would scale up operations over time. Argo AI is a joint venture between automaker Ford Motors and German automaker Volkswagen.
We are collaborating with @Walmart and @Ford to bring an autonomous goods delivery service to customers in Miami, Austin, and D.C. — Walmart’s first multi-city autonomous delivery collaboration in the U.S. https://t.co/05ryU3yU0g pic.twitter.com/RNKClxbCjJ
— Argo AI (@argoai) September 15, 2021
In 2018, Walmart and Ford had operated a pilot program using self-driving vehicles. The retailer also operates self-driving pilot programs with Gatik, and General Motors backed Cruise. Walmart had picked up a stake in Cruise, earlier in 2021.
Autonomous vehicles for delivery have posed challenges, despite the fact that they are much sought after and are considered to be the next best thing in the transportation industry. Some players including Uber have given up on autonomous vehicles while Zoox was bought by Amazon. One company, Waymo in Arizona, is the only successful one with a public autonomous vehicle fleet. All other companies work in collaboration.
In a statement, Tom Ward, Walmart U.S. senior vice president of the last mile delivery said that the collaboration between the three companies: Walmart, Ford Motors and Argo AI would expand their autonomous delivery efforts. He also said that it would further their mission to get products to their customers’ homes with unparalleled speed and ease.
Although Walmart’s e-commerce sales in the nation rose by 79 percent in the fiscal year ending January 31, the company has not as yet been profitable in its e-commerce business. The retailer needs to find more cost-effective ways of delivery and autonomous vehicle delivery services might be the way forward.