Through months of testing in Bentonville, Walmart has determined that self-driving autonomous box trucks offer an “efficient, safe and sustainable solution” for transporting goods.
The retail giant has begun using driverless trucks in Bentonville, Ark., to move groceries ordered online by shoppers from a Walmart “dark store,” which is a store that stocks items for fulfillment but isn’t open to the public, to one of the company’s Neighborhood Market stores for customer pickups.
The truck operates without a safety driver behind the wheel.
Walmart is also testing the technology in a handful of markets in Texas and Louisiana, though in those cases, there is a safety driver on board as a back up.
Walmart’s driverless trucks are supplied by Gatik, a relatively new company for automated, self-driving trucks handling short-haul, middle-mile logistics.
The theory behind utilizing the autonomous trucks is that they will help meet the increasing demand to fulfill online orders, keep delivery times short, and will compensate for driver shortages.
Gatik also contends that eliminating the human factor reduces the chances for incidents on the roads. “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 of last mile at Walmart U.S.
Ward characterized using driverless delivery trucks as an “industry milestone,” marking the first time that an autonomous trucking company has removed the safety driver from a commercial delivery route on the middle mile anywhere in the world.
Walmart, said Ward, “looks forward to continuing to use this technology to serve Walmart customers with speed.”
Since July 2019, Walmart has been testing Gatik’s driverless truck with a safety driver in the vehicle. Last August, the safety driver was removed from the vehicle. The driverless trucks have been making repeated delivery runs per day, seven days a week on public roads.
“Arkansas and Gatik have shifted into the future with Gatik’s self-driving delivery truck,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement. “It is fitting that Arkansas, which is home to the greatest retail companies in the world, is the launching pad for this innovation in retail delivery.”
- David Main, WWD