Walmart teams up with General Motors (GM) to roll out autonomous, driverless delivery in the United States.
Walmart partnered with GM to test out battery-powered Chevrolet Volts in Arizona. The collaboration consists of GM’s driverless car subsidiary, Cruise, several of which will be leased out to the program. Beginning in early 2021, Walmart orders placed in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale will be delivered via autonomous vehicle, with no delivery driver present. As the project goes through its testing phase, a back-up vehicle driven by a Walmart employee will accompany the Chevrolet Volt, but eventually the cars will operate unescorted. The driverless delivery pilot project is part of Walmart’s larger effort to increase “express delivery” options for American consumers. The initial rollout will follow a series of delivery services launched during the Coronavirus pandemic, which has enabled Walmart to reach 65% of U.S. households and increase its e-commerce sales by 97%, according to a Gartner report on the topic. By increasing its delivery capabilities via autonomous vehicles, that percentage could rise.
As the Cruise-operated vehicles are battery powered, Walmart’s delivery initiative is also a sustainable push, which could help the retailer reach its “zero emissions” pledge sooner. While the sustainable aspects could appeal to consumers, the potential time and energy that could be saved via the delivery option could also prove alluring. Though Walmart is rolling out the initiative with GM, it has also partnered with Ford and Waymo to test their vehicle options in order to find the most efficient and nationally-accessible choice. Additionally, Walmart recently launched drone delivery services, which could serve as an autonomous alternative for those in more urban areas. To promote the latter project, Walmart delivered COVID-19 tests via drone to consumer’s homes. By trialing different ventures during the Coronavirus pandemic, Walmart could determine what homebound shoppers prioritize and prefer when it comes to delivery fulfillment. As more consumers spend time at home and favor delivery over in-store shopping, providing a plethora of shipment selections could keep customers engaged and keen to shop at Walmart.
By commencing its driverless delivery initiative, Walmart could enter a new age of e-commerce. The push could bring more delivery options to consumers and allow Walmart to drive up its technology offerings, which in turn could help it stand out from competitors like Amazon and Target.