Future Walmart Shoppers Might Receive Their Groceries Via Driverless Delivery

Future Walmart Shoppers Might Receive Their Groceries Via Driverless Delivery
Delivery & Logistics

The American mega retailer is aiming to dominate the future of on-demand delivery, rivaling last-mile efforts from competitors like Amazon with tests of autonomous grocery delivery that could democratize the service for the mainstream

Catherine Ollinger
  • 16 november 2018

The grocery delivery wars are heating up, with one of the world’s biggest retailers firing another salvo in the battle for share of shoppers’ stomach: Walmart is partnering with Ford and on-demand delivery app Postmates to design a viable service to deliver groceries and other goods via driverless cars.

The initiative follows on the heels of Ford’s efforts to partner with services that can benefit from the employment of its driverless vehicles, and on Walmart’s efforts to ramp up its last-mile delivery capabilities. The latter made the move earlier this fall to incorporate service from pilot Spark Delivery, which sourced independent drivers to help expand Walmart’s grocery delivery range.

Key rival Amazon has similarly been focusing its efforts on enabling faster, cheaper, more flexible delivery options for shoppers, earlier this fall incorporating a fleet of independent drivers and 20,000 Mercedes-Benz vans into its arsenal, and more recently announcing the implementation of an internal delivery service of its own just for Prime orders.

What distinguishes Walmart’s bid to cater to increasing consumer demand for optimum last-mile service is the autonomous factor. While the retailer already offers grocery delivery in 100 metro areas, it hopes to sharpen its competitive edge by making lower-cost delivery viable and more expansive, deploying self-driving vehicles to efficiently deliver fresh groceries hand picked by personal Walmart shoppers.

The pilot program with Ford is to take place in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and will at first use human-driven vehicles operated in a manner that simulates how a self-driving car would function. If successful, the service would allow Walmart customers to place their grocery orders and receive delivery via Postmates’ service, reliant on Ford’s driverless cars.

Walmart is careful to admit, however, that the implementation of autonomous vehicles generally and especially at a large, mainstream scale such as this will require a thorough trial and experimentation period. Furthermore, the retailer wants to determine how to incorporate driverless services in a way that is optimally useful to customers: “Before self-driving cars can go mainstream, we must get a better sense of how people want to interact with them,” says Tom Ward, Walmart senior vice president.

Nonetheless, consumers increasingly expect retailers ranging all industries, both online and offline, to meet their elevated demands for speed and service when it comes to last-mile delivery. Accordingly, retailers are responding to this need for flexible and fast fulfillment through creative collaborations and integration of new infrastructure, from Walmart’s automated pickup kiosks to Wholefoods’ curbside grocery pickup. An autonomous offer from Walmart could mark the next step towards the future of on-demand retail at large.

For an in-depth look at the rising importance of last-mile delivery, see PSFK’s report the Last-Mile Delivery Debrief.

Walmart

The grocery delivery wars are heating up, with one of the world’s biggest retailers firing another salvo in the battle for share of shoppers’ stomach: Walmart is partnering with Ford and on-demand delivery app Postmates to design a viable service to deliver groceries and other goods via driverless cars.

+AI
+Automotive
+automotive & mobility
+autonomous vehicles
+Convenience & Supermarket
+Delivery
+Delivery & Logistics
+driverless vehicles
+food & beverge
+ford
+Grocery
+last mile delivery
+post-purchase service & support
+postmates
+retail
+Walmart

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