Walmart has tapped Argo AI and Ford to launch an autonomous vehicle delivery service in Austin, Miami and Washington, D.C., the companies said Wednesday.
The service will allow customers to place online orders for groceries and other items using Walmart's ordering platform. Argo's cloud-based infrastructure will be integrated with Walmart's online platform, routing the orders and scheduling package deliveries to customers' homes. Initially, the commercial service will be limited to specific geographic areas in each city and will expand over time. The companies will begin testing later this year.
Walmart and Ford have partnered before in a limited test with Postmates in fall 2018. In that pilot program, which focused on Miami-Dade County, they used simulated self-driving vehicles to study the user experience of delivering groceries. Argo was not involved in that study.
This latest collaboration will use Ford vehicles integrated with Argo AI's self-driving technology. The aim is to show the potential for autonomous vehicle delivery services at scale, according to Argo AI CEO and co-founder Bryan Salesky.
The announcement illustrates Ford's two-track system to launch a commercial service that uses autonomous vehicles to shuttle people and possibly packages. The automaker has been testing the business side of how a dedicated fleet of autonomous vehicles might operate in the real world. It backed Argo AI in 2016 and tapped the company to develop and test the self-driving system.
It also shows how Austin and Miami have become central to their initial commercialization plans.
Earlier this summer, Argo AI and Ford announced plans to launch at least 1,000 self-driving vehicles on Lyft's ride-hailing network in a number of cities over the next five years, starting with Miami and Austin. The first Ford self-driving vehicles equipped with Argo's autonomous vehicle technology are expected to become available on Lyft's app in Miami later this year.