Walmart to Launch Self-Driving, Last-Mile Delivery with Ford and Argo AI

Walmart is also an investor in GM-owned autonomous startup, Cruise

Ford announced today that its cars will be used to pilot autonomous last-mile delivery for Walmart. The program will see Ford cars equipped with Argo AI’s (a joint venture between Ford and VW) self-driving technology deliver groceries and other goods to Walmart customers in Miami, Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

Walmart certainly isn’t afraid of some autonomy with its delivery, as the retailer has been running various tests with a number of self-driving vehicle companies for a couple of years now. In 2019 Walmart announced a pilot using Nuro’s self-driving pods. Gatik started making autonomous driving middle-mile deliveries for Walmart at the end of 2020. Walmart also started testing grocery delivery using Cruise’s self-driving cars in the back of 2020.

Worth mentioning is that earlier this year Walmart invested in Cruise’ $2.75 billion round of funding. General Motors, fellow auto giant and Ford rival, is the majority owner of Cruise.

We don’t know how much Walmart invested in Cruise, so it could be just a rounding error for the company, but regardless, it would make sense for a company as large as Walmart to test out a variety of different autonomous delivery solutions. Self-driving technology is still very new and there is no dominant player yet, so why not hedge your bets. And probably more important for Walmart is scale. It’s doubtful that any one self-driving car technology can serve the thousands of stores Walmart operates. Employing multiple solutions means it can reach more of the country, faster.

The whole notion of self-driving last-mile delivery is complicated not only from a technological standpoint, but also from a regulatory one. The technology is getting better (See: Gatik’s driverless truck in Arkansas and Nuro’s completely self-driving pod), but city, state and federal rules are still evolving.

As evidenced by this latest announcement, Walmart is evolving with the times too.