U.S. retail giant Walmart announced yet another autonomous grocery delivery pilot—this time it’s with last-mile vehicle company Udelv in Surprise, Arizona, which is just outside of Phoenix.
This particular pilot will include one of Udelv’s custom-built cargo vans, which the manufacturer says includes features like customizable cargo space for multiple orders.
In a blog post, Udelv said its second-generation autonomous delivery van, which it calls The Newton, can “improve lives and drive the future of ecommerce” because it cuts delivery costs, narrows delivery windows and makes more goods more accessible to more people.
Walmart says it seeks to understand how customers will want to use the technology in their grocery shopping. Indeed, there’s something of an all-out war in online grocery right now as tech platforms and traditional retailers alike battle it out for the billions of dollars at stake—not to mention the future of customer loyalty.
To that end, Walmart has also experimented with ride-sharing, associates making deliveries, working with partners like DoorDash and Postmates and even making in-home deliveries. (It also enlisted some big-time Hollywood stars for a new campaign pushing its grocery pickup service.)
Amazon is arguably its biggest competitor, but the landscape also includes sister brand Jet, as well as Target, Kroger and Instacart, among others.
And those parties have some autonomous pilots of their own, including Kroger’s self-driving grocery-delivery pilot in Scottsdale, Arizona, with robotics company Nuro and delivery company DoorDash’s partnership with self-driving car company Cruise in San Francisco.
For its part, Udelv has also worked with Draeger’s Market in San Mateo, California, and has signed a deal to deliver driverless cargo vans to supermarkets in Oklahoma.