Ford and Walmart are teaming up to launch a robotic delivery service in three U.S. cities, using autonomous test vehicles equipped with sensors and software developed by Argo AI. Customers who live in Miami, Austin and Washington, DC, who order items from Walmart online and live in a specific geographic area may be eligible for delivery of their items by a Ford / Argo vehicle.
The companies plan to launch “integration tests” for the delivery service this year, with plans to expand geographies over time. Autonomous delivery is seen as a potentially lucrative market, with online grocery shopping having quintupled over the next decade and US consumers spending more than $ 100 billion on home groceries by 2025, according to a report. recent.
Ford has been experimenting with robotic delivery for several years now. In 2018, he announced a grocery delivery pilot project with Walmart and Instacart. The automaker has also helped Domino’s deliver pizza using its autonomous vehicles.
There are still a lot of obstacles to overcome. Vehicles will require human monitors, both behind the wheel and from remote control centers, so any potential labor savings would still be years away. Customers would have to pick up their deliveries in vehicles, which could pose problems for elderly and disabled customers, as well as people living in apartment buildings and used to delivery people bringing their orders to their doorstep.
Ford is not the only company trying to meet these challenges. Cruise, which is backed by General Motors, has its own pilot project with Walmart in Arizona. In fact, the retail giant is hedging its bets by forging non-exclusive partnerships with a wide range of AV operators, including Nuro, Udelv and Waymo.
Delivery is just one aspect of Ford’s plan to bring autonomous vehicles to market. The automaker recently announced that it is teaming up with Lyft to roll out a robotaxis in the same three cities before the end of the year.
In addition to Austin, Miami, and DC, Ford and Argo tested their fourth-generation vehicles in Pittsburgh, Detroit, and California. Argo is also preparing to launch an autonomous micro-transit and delivery service with VW in Germany, using its fifth-generation autonomous technology, from 2025. The AV company is rumored to be considering an initial public offering. savings at a valuation of $ 12.4 billion.
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