Cruise is working with Walmart Inc. (WMT) to use a fleet of autonomous and electric vehicles to test a delivery service. the development plan will commence at the start of 2021 and will be rolled out in Scottsdale, Arizona.
As part of the delivery service, Cruise has yet to decide on the final number of vehicles it will use. Since 2016, the company has operated a tiny fleet of five vehicles in Phoenix.
It is the latest in a line of updates based on the use of autonomous vehicles in last-mile delivery scenarios, highlighting a central truth about the technology: placing human passengers in robotic cars is unsafe, but putting groceries and Walmart transactions in them is far less risky.
It is the newest indication that Cruise is involved in moving beyond the Robo-taxis and into the field of robotic delivery. The company is targeting to operate a San Francisco ride-hailing service, but it has not established when. It also used its cars during the pandemic to support two food banks in San Francisco.
Cruise is not Walmart’s first self-driving venture. The retail giant has agreements with Nuro, Udelv, Ford, and Waymo as well. It’s not difficult to see why, too: online grocery shopping could rise fivefold over the next decade, according to a recent study, with American consumers spending upwards of $100 billion on food-at-home products by 2025. As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, these figures will surely trend upwards.
In California, Cruise recently obtained a permit to test driverless cars without a safety operator. Cruise also does not authorize the riding of non-employees in their cars. In 2019 the company intended but failed to operate a public autonomous cab service. The launch date of Cruise’s public robotaxi service is yet to be announced.