Ford, Argo, Walmart to launch self-driving vehicle delivery service in three cities
Ford Motor Co. and Argo AI on Wednesday announced they are teaming up with retail giant Walmart Inc. to offer an autonomous-vehicle delivery service in three U.S. cities beginning later this year.
The last-mile delivery service, which according to the companies marks Walmart's first multi-city autonomous delivery collaboration in the U.S., is slated to start off in Miami, Austin and Washington, D.C. Walmart customers within defined service areas of the cities will be able to order groceries and other items online, with delivery provided by Ford vehicles that are equipped with Argo's self-driving system.
The announcement — financial terms of which were not disclosed — marks another step in the competitive race among automakers and technology companies to improve autonomous vehicle systems and make vehicles and services with self-driving capabilities broadly available to the public.
"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 of Pittsburgh-based Argo AI, in which Ford owns a stake. "Working together with Walmart and Ford across three markets, we're showing the potential for autonomous vehicle delivery services at scale."
The collaboration also marks a step forward in Ford's efforts, with Argo, to launch an autonomous vehicle business at scale — and it follows their July announcement of a limited robotaxi service on ride-sharing company Lyft's platform. The companies have been operating in Miami and D.C. since 2018 and Austin since 2019 to develop such services.
"Argo and Ford are aggressively preparing for large-scale autonomous vehicle operations across a broad footprint of U.S. cities," Scott Griffith, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles & Mobility Businesses, said in a statement. "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."
This is not Walmart's first venture into the self-driving delivery service space. The retailer last year announced it was teaming up with San Francisco-based Cruise LLC, the autonomous vehicle company in which General Motors Co. owns a majority stake, to launch a pilot program in Scottsdale, Ariz. The move happened amid a surge in demand for delivery services as consumers accelerated their shift to online ordering due to the coronavirus pandemic. And earlier this year, Walmart announced it was investing in Cruise.
"We maintain our collaborations with other AV partners and we are still an investor in Cruise," Walmart said in a statement to The Detroit News. "Our work with Ford and Argo is another example of how we’re continuing to pave the way for the use of autonomous vehicles in our operations."
Walmart previously tested with Ford in Miami in 2018.
Tom Ward, senior vice president of last mile delivery for Walmart U.S., said the 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."
The companies said the service — initial integration testing for which is scheduled to start later this year — eventually will expand to other markets. Argo's cloud-based infrastructure will integrate with Walmart's online ordering platform to route orders and schedule deliveries, the companies said.