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Ford, Walmart and Postmates Team Up for Self-Driving Goods Delivery

By Brian Wolf, Director, Business Development, Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC

November 14, 2018

After surviving a tough day at work or managing the kids’ schedules, the thought of leaving the house again to run to the store can feel downright exhausting — especially if stores around you aren’t conveniently located.

At Ford, we believe the advent of self-driving vehicles opens up the potential to ease some of life’s pain points and markedly expand affordable access to transportation and goods delivery. We’re already collaborating with both national and local companies to understand how we can improve goods delivery through the use of self-driving vehicles, working to transport tacos, floral arrangements, dry cleaning and a number of other items. Now, it’s time to explore how grocery delivery can help expand access to fresh food and other retail items for people all over the country, including in Miami-Dade County, where we’re currently putting our comprehensive self-driving business operations to the test.

This is why we’re teaming up with Walmart. Through this collaboration, we are exploring how self-driving vehicles can deliver many everyday goods such as groceries, diapers, pet food and personal care items. Enabled by Postmates delivery as a service, we were able to quickly set up a pilot program that explores how our self-driving vehicles can complement Walmart’s existing delivery offerings. Since Postmates is already a partner of both Ford and Walmart, the companies are able to utilize Postmates’ infrastructure to get this offering up and running quickly.

Already, Walmart has seen customers respond positively to its grocery delivery option, which uses the company’s trained personal shoppers to select fresh produce and other groceries for orders that are then fulfilled through Postmates and its other delivery networks. By the end of this year, that option will be available in 800 stores across 100 metropolitan areas around the country. Next year, the number of stores offering delivery service is expected to double.

Like Ford, Walmart believes that self-driving vehicles have an important role to play in the future of delivery, and that true success comes from first learning how individuals want to use them in their daily lives. Together, we’ll be using research vehicles, designed to simulate an autonomous experience, to gather crucial data about consumer preferences and learn the best way we can conveniently connect people with the goods they need.

Over the next couple of months, we’ll be working closely with Walmart to understand its operations, identify what goods we can feasibly transport, and pinpoint any issues that may need to be addressed to successfully deliver orders via self-driving vehicles. Naturally, orders from a supermarket will tend to be larger and more varied than orders from a restaurant or dry cleaner. So we’ll be exploring different vehicle configurations or modifications that we could make to meet people’s needs — especially to accommodate perishable goods, or scenarios where our vehicles end up making multiple deliveries on a single trip.

Crafting an experience for people that’s easy to understand and simple to use is critical to our vision of making people’s lives a little bit easier. We’re committed to putting that effort in now instead of waiting for AVs to be on the road, having already completed more than 1,000 deliveries as part of the initial phases of building up our self-driving business. We’re confident that working with Walmart will strengthen our effort to successfully deploy self-driving vehicles in a way that people actually want to experience — whether they’re ordering takeout, groceries or anything else they might need.

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