By James Raia
If you soon start seeing driverless Walmart trucks in Arkansas, don’t fret.
The massive retailer will debut its fully autonomous box trucks to make deliveries early in 2021 in conjunction with a startup company called Gatik.
Located in Palo Alto, California, and Toronto, Canada, Gatik and Walmart have tested the program for 18 months. Gatik outfitted several multi-temperature box trucks with sensors and software to enable autonomous driving.
Driverless trucks not new at “dark store”
For about a year, trucks have been operating on a two-mile route between a “dark store” (a store that stocks items for fulfillment but isn’t open to the public) and a nearby Neighborhood Market in Bentonville, Arkansas. The vehicles have driven 70,000 miles in autonomous mode with a safety driver.
Walmart will integrate fully autonomous box trucks into the route.
Gatik describes its approach to self-driving hardware and software as “radically divergent.”
Walmart is also working with numerous additional self-driving companies to determine the best fit for its retail and delivery operations. Waymo, Cruise, Nuro, Udelv, Baidu, Ford and Postmates are among the companies.
Walmart hasn’t announced additional plans for autonomous delivery trucks in other states. But its negotiations with autonomous companies in California lean toward the country’s largest state to also join the driverless delivery parade.
James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: email@example.com.