Walmart has launches its fifth autonomous grocery delivery pilot program, this time with the electric robo-van maker Nuro in the robotics company’s hometown of Houston.
Resembling a cross between a Fiat 500 and the discontinued Toyota Prius C, Nuro’s prototype is a custom, low-speed, zero-emission, self-driving vehicle that’s engineered for short neighborhood trips and for the exclusive purpose of transporting goods. The compact vehicles sport gull wing-style doors reminiscent of an ’80s movie star: the DeLorean.
To reduce mass and maximize space for deliveries—as well as lessen the force of impact in case of a collision—the autonomous vehicle does not have space for a driver or passengers.
According to the robotics company, the vehicle is also designed to sacrifice itself in case of an emergency, prioritizing human life over its cargo.
Tom Ward, svp of digital operations for Walmart, said in a statement that through the partnership with Nuro, “Walmart aims to develop, refine and continue learning how to offer the best end-to-end customer experience.”
Since July 2018, Walmart has begun pilot programs with four other autonomous grocery delivery services: Waymo in Chandler, Ariz., Ford in Miami, Udelv in Surprise, Ariz., and most recently with Gatik in Bentonville, Ark.
Walmart has also experimented with making in-home deliveries through partners like DoorDash and Postmates. (It also enlisted some notable mechanical Hollywood stars for a campaign pushing its grocery pickup service at the start of 2019.)
For its part, Nuro has also worked with Walmart competitor Kroger. In April of this year, Kroger began its own self-driving grocery delivery pilot program with the robotics company in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Per Ward, in 2019 Walmart grew its online grocery footprint to nearly 3,100 pickup locations, with deliveries coming from more than 1,600 stores.