Walmart, the world'd largest retailer, is always on the cutting edge of where shopping meets technology. And their latest announcement might have you feeling like we're closer to the future that The Jetsons envisioned than ever before. Walmart just revealed they'll start to use fully driverless trucks to make deliveries as early as next year. Shoppers using Walmart's online services in certain trial areas will receive their deliveries via a fully autonomous box truck. Read on for more on this futuristic change, and for another update from Walmart, check out why Walmart Is Doing This Again as COVID Surges.
The new endeavor is the result of a partnership between Walmart and Gatik, a start-up based in Palo Alto and Toronto. Gatik has created multi-temperature box trucks outfitted with the software and sensors that enable the vehicles to move and navigate safely without the need for a human driver. Over the past year, trials have been ongoing with the trucks working on a two-mile route between a Walmart "dark store" (a center that holds items for online dispatch but isn't open to the general public) and a location in Bentonville, Arkansas, where the brand is headquartered. During these tests, the vehicles have driven autonomously but have had a human safety driver on board, and have notched up 70,000 miles in deliveries so far.
Following the successful trial, the intention is that Walmart and Gatik's trucks will go fully driverless beginning next year. "This achievement marks a new milestone that signifies the first ever driverless operation carried out on the supply chain middle mile for both Gatik and Walmart," Tom Ward, Walmart's senior VP of customer product, said in a company statement.
At the same time, the program will be expanded to a new location in Louisiana, where trucks with safety drivers will start carrying out deliveries from a regular Walmart store to a designated pickup location where customers can collect their online purchases.
As well as this trial, Walmart is working with other driverless vehicle companies including Waymo, Cruise, and Ford to find which operator best suits its needs. "Our trials with Gatik are just two of many use cases we're testing with autonomous vehicles, and we're excited to continue learning how we might incorporate them in a delivery ecosystem," Ward said in his statement. "With 90 percent of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart, a closer store isn't always the answer. Perhaps it's just a pickup location, with an autonomous vehicle making deliveries on a constant loop."
With customers ordering more supplies to their homes and many reluctant to physically visit stores during the pandemic, Walmart has been expanding its online operations. The chain's Walmart+ program, which launched in Sept. 2020, is one of its biggest developments. Read on for more on what the service offers, and for a warning from the superstore, beware that If You Bought This From Walmart, Get Rid of It Right Now.
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You can get free overnight shipping.
As of Dec. 4, Walmart+ dropped its $35 order minimum for free one- or two-day shipping, though the minimum is still in effect for groceries. In the battle between Walmart and Amazon, quick shipping with no minimum has been one of the biggest selling points for Amazon Prime since the program launched in 2007. Since Walmart+ is the brick-and-mortar retailer's answer to Amazon Prime, the $35 minimum order was the clear drawback when comparing the two services. Just three months after it launched in Sept. 2020, Walmart+ got more competitive by dropping the minimum. And for more on the latest news from the retail giant, check out Walmart Is Now Doing This as Soon as You Go in the Store.
And you can get your groceries delivered in one-hour windows.
In order to get free grocery delivery from Walmart+, orders need to be over $35. But the good news is, unlike most grocery delivery services, Walmart+ gives customers an hourlong delivery window so you won't be sitting around for hours. And for more regular retail news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
You can save on gas.
Walmart+ members can also save 5 cents per gallon on gas at Walmart, Murphy, and Sam's Club fuel stations. And for more news from this superstore, find out why Walmart Is Banned From Selling This One Thing in Texas.
You can use contact-free checkout at Walmart stores.
For customers who are still visiting Walmart stores but want to minimize their in-person shopping time for both convenience and COVID purposes, the Walmart+ Scan-and-Go app allows members to scan items around the store, and check out without any contact with a cashier. And for info on where working at Walmart puts the most cash in your pocket, check out This Is the State Where Walmart Employees Are Paid the Best.