The Arkansas-based retailer announced its pilot with Gatik, a driverless delivery startup, last year, moving orders 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 Neighborhood Market in Bentonville, Arkansas.
According to Walmart, it has safely driven more than 70,000 operational miles in autonomous mode with a safety driver.
Now, the company is taking the next step forward, announcing that Gatik’s multi-temperature Autonomous Box Trucks will operate this route entirely driverless in the state of Arkansas.
“When we begin incorporating driverless Box Trucks into the Bentonville operation next year, the pilot will continue as it always has,” said Tom Ward, SVP of Customer Product, Walmart U.S. in a corporate blog post. “But now, we’ll be working with Gatik to monitor and gather new data to help us stay on the leading edge of driverless autonomous vehicles.”
In a blog post, Gautam Narang, Gatik co-founder and CEO, says the company has “worked closely with legislative and regulatory personnel in Arkansas to inform the development of autonomous vehicle legislation, and share detailed information on all aspects of our operations in the state.”
It will mark the first-ever driverless operation carried out on the “supply chain middle mile” for both Gatik and Walmart.
The retailer said it’s also learning how it might use autonomous vehicles to transfer customer orders from a “dark” store to a live store and expanding the pilot to a second location in Louisiana with an even longer delivery route. The company will deliver items from a Supercenter to a Walmart pickup point a designated location where customers can pick up their orders.
The Autonomous Box Trucks in Louisiana will initially operate with a safety driver, Walmart says, and the operation will begin early next year on a 20-mile route between New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana.