Walmart has signed on to join Ford and tech firm Argo AI’s ongoing self-driving car test program in Miami-Dade County.
The three companies announced Wednesday that customers in select parts of Miami-Dade will see deliveries being performed by the vehicles, which for now will still feature safety drivers behind the wheel, but which will be operating autonomously. In the initial phase of the initiative, a runner will be in the vehicle to drop off goods. Later, customers will be notified that a car with their goods is approaching, along with instructions on how to access them from the backseat, and will be asked to meet the vehicle at the curb.
“As consumer expectations continue to shift to next-day or same-day delivery — especially in the urban core where there is a higher concentration of deliveries — this collaboration will drive key learnings in how autonomous technology can enhance customer experiences, while also optimizing logistics and operations,” the companies said in a statement.
Added Tom Ward, senior vice president of last mile delivery, Walmart U.S., “This collaboration will further our mission to get products to the homes of our customers with unparalleled speed and ease, and in turn, will continue to pave the way for autonomous delivery.”
Ford and Argo AI have been testing self-driving vehicles in Miami-Dade since 2018. In October 2020, Ford and Argo AI announced they were expanding their test presence here. And in July, Ford, Argo AI and Lyft announced they would begin testing self-driving taxis vehicles in the county.
It was not immediately clear how many modified SUV test vehicles Ford and Argo AI currently operate in Miami-Dade. The companies have said they plan to launch at least 1,000 self-driving vehicles on Lyft’s ride-hailing network in multiple cities over the next five years.
So far, the tests have seen no reported serious accidents, though the latest Lyft announcement has caused some anxiety among longtime ride-hail drivers.
Miami-Dade will join Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C., in the initial Walmart program rollout.
“Our focus on the testing and development of self-driving technology that operates in urban areas where customer demand is high really comes to life with this collaboration,” said Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO, Argo AI. “Working together with Walmart and Ford across three markets, we’re showing the potential for autonomous vehicle delivery services at scale.”
Scott Griffith, CEO of Ford’s autonomous vehicles and mobility businesses, said Argo and Ford are aggressively preparing for large-scale autonomous vehicle operations across a broad footprint of U.S. cities.
“Pairing Walmart’s retail and e-commerce leadership with Argo and Ford’s self-driving operations across these multiple cities marks a significant step toward scaling a commercial goods delivery service that will ultimately power first-to-scale business efficiencies and enable a great consumer experience.”