US retail giant Walmart is testing driverless cars to transport goods, from warehouse to warehouse, in order to reduce shipping costs and increase efficiency.
Walmart is working with its partner Gatik to test out a self-driving vehicle, which will travel along a two-mile route, between two stores, in Bentonville, Arkansas.
As part of its broader approach, Walmart is seeking to deploy autonomous cars to connect the stores and warehouses it operates across the US, instead of only using them for last-mile deliveries. The company is calling it the middle-mile part of the supply chain.
Gatik CEO Gautam Narang told Bloomberg the ‘middle mile is the most expensive part of the whole supply chain,’ filling a ‘big gap in the market.’
The retailer is working with city and state officials to secure the approval required for operation and planning, to commence the pilot programme this summer.
Walmart seeks to learn about the logistics of adding autonomous vans into its ecosystem, operation and process changes and opportunities to incorporate the emerging technology.
The technology needed for autonomous middle-mile deliveries will be same that is used for last-mile deliveries.
In April 2019, Walmart opened an artificial intelligence-powered store concept, the Intelligent Retail Lab, at its Neighbourhood Market in Levittown, New York.
The retailer will use the store, which features more than 30,000 products, to test technology in a real world environment.