Walmart (WMT: NYSE) will deploy autonomous vehicles to deliver groceries for customers, according to Tom Ward, senior vice president of digital operations for the retail giant. Autonomous vehicle company Udelv is providing the technology to make the pilot program possible.
As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart is continuously experimenting with new technology and services to enhance the customer experience.
Udelv manufactures custom-made, public-road autonomous and electric delivery vehicle. The company was founded in 2018 and raised $8 million in their most recent deal. Udelv’s delivery vehicle is derived from the Ford Transit Connect van.
The pilot program is slated to take place in Surprise, Arizona, which is located in Maricopa County and is the second fastest growing municipality in the Phoenix area.
The cargo vans that will be utilized in the pilot program will deliver fresh groceries handpicked by Walmart’s personal shoppers - employees who fulfill online shopping orders - straight to customers who placed the order.
Walmart and Udelv join a growing list of companies experimenting with autonomous vehicles. In December, grocery retailer Kroger (KR: NYSE) announced a partnership with Silicon Valley based Nuro to begin an autonomous delivery service in Arizona.
Udelv recently partnered with XL Parts in Texas to undergo trials to deliver auto parts between its Houston facilities. The trial will help Udelv develop machine learning in their autonomous vehicles and will help the company develop its second-generation vehicle.
“We’re still learning – it’s a pilot – but, we want to make sure we stay on the cutting edge of grocery delivery by exploring what’s new and next,” said Ward on Walmart’s expanded interest in using technology in grocery shopping.