Walmart Launches Robotic Delivery Pilot

Walmart, Nuro Test Autonomous Grocery Delivery

Walmart is partnering with autonomous vehicle company Nuro to launch a new pilot program that will test autonomous grocery delivery in the Houston market, Walmart announced in a press release Tuesday (Dec. 10).

The service, which will begin testing next year, will use R2 — Nuro’s custom-built delivery vehicle — and autonomous Toyota Priuses, all powered by Nuro’s proprietary software and hardware, according to TechCrunch. The service carries products only; there are no onboard drivers or passengers.

“Nuro’s vision of using robotics to improve lives runs parallel with Walmart’s mission of helping customers live better,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president of Digital Operations for Walmart U.S., in the release.

Nuro has been focused on developing a self-driving stack and combining it with a custom unmanned vehicle designed for last-mile delivery of local goods and services. The vehicle has two compartments that can fit up to six grocery bags each, TechCrunch reported.

“We consider delivery to be a natural extension of the shopping experience, and an important way to bring the benefits of the on-demand economy to more people,” Nuro said in its own press release. “Through the pilot, we’ll gain insights that will enable us to further develop and refine our service, while helping Walmart create the best end-to-end customer experiences.”

Last year, Nuro partnered with Kroger (Fry’s) to test autonomous Prius vehicles and its custom-built robot, R1 in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, TechCrunch reported. In March, the service was expanded to Houston. Next year, Nuro is not only partnering with Walmart, but it will test its second-generation robot, R2, with Kroger and Domino’s as well.

Earlier this year, Walmart partnered with Udelv to test autonomous grocery deliveries in Arizona. Over the summer, the retail giant partnered with autonomous vehicle startup Gatik AI to pilot grocery delivery from Walmart’s main warehouse in Bentonville, Arkansas.

“Our unparalleled size and scale have allowed us to steer grocery delivery to the front doors of millions of families — and design a roadmap for the future of the industry,” Ward said in the release.

Technology is progressing as consumer attitudes shift on what constitutes effective deliveries. The trend is clear: Autonomous technology promises to play an increasingly important role in fulfillment in the decades to come.