Tech in Action: Walmart is testing self-driving delivery

A pilot with Ford is exploring how autonomous vehicles could play a role in purchasing everyday items.

While some retailers in Canada are just starting to get on board with grocery delivery, Walmart is already looking to the future.

In Miami-Dade County in Florida, the retailer is working with Ford to test out how self-driving vehicles might be able to deliver purchases instead of people.

According to a blog post by Brian Wolf, director of business development at Ford’s autonomous vehicle division, the pilot will be focused on “everyday goods” like groceries, personal care items, pet food and baby supplies. The two companies will be collecting data on both the operations side – such as on what kind of purchases can feasibly be delivered this way, the vehicles needed to complete these deliveries and how to accommodate multiple deliveries on a single trip – and from the consumer side, such as which products are most popular and making the experience understandable and simple for shoppers.

“Like Ford, Walmart believes that self-driving vehicles have an important role to play in the future of delivery, and that true success comes from first learning how individuals want to use them in their daily lives,” Wolf said.

The partnership is being facilitated by U.S. product delivery service Postmates, which is already a partner of both Walmart and Ford.

Wolf said Ford sees delivery is a key part of its autonomous vehicle strategy, which is why it is testing the possibilities in the space now, instead of when self-driving cars are out on the road. He added that the company has already completed over 1,000 test deliveries before this partnership was struck.