For some Walmart customers, online shopping will soon come with an autonomous twist.
The retailer will be partnering with Ford and its self-driving unit, Argo AI, to drop off deliveries to customers’ homes in Miami, Austin, and Washington, D.C.
Argo AI has been testing its autonomous vehicles in those cities already, but in the coming months it’ll drop off groceries and other supplies customers buy through the Walmart app or website. Autonomous delivery pricing will be the same as Walmart’s normal delivery fees.
Instead of the usual delivery method in a human-powered vehicle, items will be transported in a self-driving car (with a safety driver up front still). Customers will retrieve bags from the car once it arrives.
The car is noticeably marked as autonomous, if the sensors and equipment didn’t give it away.
An initial service area in each city will kick off later this year, with plans to eventually expand to a bigger coverage zone if all goes well. Ford and Walmart claim this could speed up delivery times as expectations (definitely set by Amazon with its Prime subscription plan) move toward same-day or even quicker delivery.
Argo AI isn’t new to on-demand delivery. Ford has delivered Domino’s pizza orders in Argo AI autonomous vehicles in the past, and even collaborated with delivery app Postmates to bring Walmart orders to Miami-area shoppers.
Argo AI is also on the roads in Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Palo Alto, California, but won’t be offering any delivery services in those cities. Even if Argo AI has experience in the autonomous delivery space, it still hasn’t started a passenger service. For that you’ll have to look to Alphabet-owned Waymo, but only in Phoenix and San Francisco.