With delivery drivers in short supply, Walmart announced that it is operating robotic delivery from a “dark store” to a Neighborhood Market, and Uber revealed a partnership that will lead to it using automated vehicles for delivering goods to consumer homes.
Walmart and automated last-mile specialist Gatik have been operating daily delivery route since August in Bentonville, AK, moving customer orders between the dark store— a former supercenter converted to a last-mile e-commerce fulfillment center— and Neighborhood Market in multi-temperature, autonomous box trucks without having a safety driver behind the wheel.
Gatik’s deployment with Walmart represents the first time an autonomous trucking company has removed the safety driver from a commercial delivery route on the middle mile anywhere in the world, the companies said. The fully driverless operation involves consistent, repeated delivery runs multiple times per day, seven days per week on public roads. They effectively demonstrate how Walmart can unlock the full advantages of autonomous delivery, including increased speed and responsiveness when fulfilling e-commerce orders, increased asset utilization and enhanced safety for all road users, the companies stated.
Gatik and Walmart in December 2020 received the Arkansas State Highway Commission’s first-ever approval to remove the safety driver from the autonomous trucks they were operating after 18 months’ successful operations.
“Through our work with Gatik, we’ve identified that autonomous box trucks offer an efficient, safe and sustainable solution for transporting goods on repeatable routes between our stores,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president, last mile at Walmart U.S. “We’re thrilled to be working with Gatik to achieve this industry-first, driverless milestone in our home state of Arkansas and look forward to continuing to use this technology to serve Walmart customers with speed.”
Uber Eats recently struck deals to make deliveries, including non-foods, for retailers Bed Bath & Beyond and Rite Aid, through Uber Eats. Now, autonomous sidewalk delivery specialist Serve Robotics, announced a partnership with the company that will result in the launch of an on-demand robotic delivery service.
The Uber Eats robotic delivery service will start serving customers in Los Angeles early next year.
“We are excited to partner with Serve Robotics to test a new kind of delivery in Los Angeles, that’s safe, reliable and environmentally friendly,” Sarfraz Maredia, vice president and head of Uber Eats in the United States and Canada. “We’re always looking for ways to better serve merchants and consumers, which is why we’re working with the team at Serve to explore the potential of this technology.”
Dr. Ali Kashani, co-founder and CEO of Serve Robotics, added, “Serve Robotics is looking forward to delivering great convenience for Uber Eats merchants and customers, Uber is our first commercial partner and will be a strong source of demand for us as we use contactless delivery to power community commerce at scale.”