American retail giant Walmart announced on Tuesday (US time) that it will collaborate with GM’s autonomous driving arm, Cruise, to test out self-driving technology for pickups and deliveries.
Starting from early 2021, the retailer will begin a pilot program with a handful of autonomous Cruise delivery vehicles in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Although the number of vehicles that will be deployed by Cruise is yet to be announced, the trial is a follow-up from a five-vehicle trial fleet in operation in Phoenix, Arizona since 2016.
It is, “Technology that has the potential to not only save customers time and money but also is helpful to the planet is technology we want to learn more about,” said SVP of customer products for Walmart, Tom Ward, in a statement on the company’s website.
Importantly, Walmart says it chose to partner with Cruise on the new self-driving delivery pilot because of Cruise’s commitment to powering its fleet of electric vehicles with 100% renewable energy.
This will help Walmart achieve its own sustainability goals, namely reaching zero emissions by 2040.
Autonomous deliveries can also offer other benefits, such as contactless deliveries to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, which is still claiming thousands of lives on a daily basis in the US alone.
From early 2021, Walmart customer in Scottsdale, Arizona, will be able to place an order at their local stores and have their orders delivered contact-free by Cruise.
While Walmart’s announcement did not indicate if the vehicles that will be used by Cruise will still have occupants in the vehicles, Cruise did receive permissions from the Californian authorities in October to start operating its vehicles without occupants.
It is not the first company to receive this permission, but will be the first to operate on busy city streets, says Cruise.
Walmart has also partnered with other various autonomous driving programs, including Nuro, which commenced a self-driving delivery trial in Houston, Texas, in December 2019 and which uses refrigerated “robot” delivery vehicles.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.