Walmart and Ford have reportedly teamed up to unveil a robo-delivery service in three cities of the United States, using autonomous test vehicles provided with software as well as sensors developed by Argo AI.
Consumers who reside in Austin, Washington DC, and Miami, who order products from Walmart online and stay within a particular geographic area might be qualified to have their items delivered by an Argo or a Ford vehicle.
The companies aim to commence integration testing for the delivery service in 2021, with plans to widen the geographic areas eventually. Autonomous delivery is considered a possibly profitable market with online grocery shopping predicted to grow fivefold over the next ten years and American consumers expected to spend over USD 100 billion on food-at-home items by 2025.
Ford has been trying out robo-delivery for many years now. The automaker announced a pilot for grocery delivery in collaboration with Postmates and Walmart in 2018. The company also helped Dominos deliver pizza using autonomous vehicles.
However, there is still a lot to work on with regards to robo-delivery. The vehicles will need monitoring from humans, both from the remote command centers as well as behind the wheel. Therefore, any possible labor savings are still not viable for a few years. Consumers would have to pick up deliveries from the vehicles, which could be problematic for disabled, elderly consumers as well as people living in apartments who are used to delivery workers bringing their orders by their door.
Ford is not the only company that is trying to find solutions to these challenges. The General Motors-backed Cruise has its pilot project in partnership with Walmart in Arizona. The American retailer is reportedly establishing collaborations with different AV operators which includes Waymo, Udelv, and Nuro.
Apart from Miami, DC, and Austin, Argo and Ford have also been testing their 4th gen vehicles in Detroit, California, and Pittsburgh.