Walmart will expand its driverless freight trials in its home state of Arkansas during 2021.
Last year the US retailer began testing vehicles with Gatik, an autonomous delivery network specialist that deals with the so-called ‘middle mile’ of the supply chain.
The trials moved customer orders on a two-mile route between its dark store and a Neighborhood Market in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Since then, Walmart says it has safely driven more than 70,000 operational miles in autonomous mode with a safety driver.
For 2021, Walmart will introduce Gatik’s multi-temperature Autonomous Box Trucks, which will operate the same route, without a driver.
The retailer said the 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”.
Walmart said it is expanding its pilot scheme with Gatik to a second location to test an even longer delivery route, this time sending items from a Supercenter to a Walmart pickup point, where customers collect their orders.
The operation will begin early next year on a 20-mile route between New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana.
“This unlocks the opportunity for customers who live further away from our store in New Orleans to benefit from the convenience and ease of Walmart’s pickup service,” Walmart said on its company blog.
“With 90 per cent 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,” the retailer added.