Walmart’s new driverless delivery could soon be hitting the streets. At first, human backup drivers will monitor the cars and help deliver packages to doors. But eventually, Walmart intends that its deliveries will be fully autonomous.
Walmart is the world’s largest retailer—though it battles constantly with Amazon.com to hold that top slot. The giant corporation is powering through a pandemic that has destroyed other national chains. Walmart’s online sales recently spiked nearly 80%—after nearly doubling in the previous three months.
Americans came to rely on big box stores like Walmart, Home Depot, and Target, as well as Amazon, as lifelines during the start of the pandemic. Because these companies regularly stocked “necessities,” they remained open during virus lockdowns even when hundreds of other retailers had to close.
Customer loyalty has grown stronger even as restrictions were lifted. But infections are surging again and that could deal another round of pain to retailers.
Walmart began an express delivery service in April. Now over 2,800 stores use the service.
Strong sales are just one promising sign for Walmart ahead of the coming holiday season. In a move likely hastened by the pandemic, Walmart announced that next year, customers will be able to place an order and have it delivered contact-free by a General Motor’s Chevrolet Bolt. The retail giant says it’s one of several autonomous vehicle pilot projects designed to chart a new roadmap for retail sales.
Last week, Ray Wert, spokesman at GM’s Cruise autonomous vehicle unit, announced his company’s testing with Walmart will start small. But it will gradually ramp up to more vehicles. Cruise operates a fleet of all-electric vehicles. The first driverless Walmart Bolts will storm the streets of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Now if only robots could help handle the actual holiday shopping. . . !
(A woman pushes a shopping cart into a Walmart in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. The world’s largest retailer is powering through a pandemic that has felled other national chains. AP/Nam Y. Huh)