Ford is joining forces with Walmart and Postmates to create a grocery delivery service using self-driving vehicles in Miami, the companies announced Wednesday.
Ford has been using Miami as a test bed for its self-driving vehicles since earlier this year. And more recently, the auto giant joined with Postmates to see how people ordering takeout food would interact with an autonomous delivery van.
Now Ford is moving to the next stage: grocery delivery. The company says it will experiment with different vehicle types, as well as modifications to those vehicles needed to keep perishable food items fresh. It will also experiment with a variety of scenarios, such as multiple deliveries on one trip and the user experience of retrieving delivery items from a fully driverless vehicle.
Ford isn’t the only company thinking about how to combine the lucrative grocery delivery industry with self-driving cars. Online grocery shopping could grow five-fold over the next decade, with American consumers spending upward of $100 billion on food-at-home items by 2025, according to a recent report.
San Francisco-based startup Udelv has a deal to supply Oklahoma City’s largest grocery chain with self-driving delivery vehicles. Previously, the company’s bright orange vehicles were delivering groceries for the high-end Draeger’s Market chain in the Bay Area city of San Mateo. Now, they’ll be used to deliver a wider selection of food for the more mass-market customers of Uptown Grocery, Buy For Less, and Smart Saver stores.
Another self-driving startup, AutoX, recently announced it would begin delivering groceries in its small fleet of retrofitted Lincoln MKZ vehicles for customers in San Jose. And Nuro, a company founded in 2016 by two veterans of Google’s original self-driving team, is teaming up with supermarket giant Kroger to deliver groceries to residents in Arizona.
Of course, Ford has racked up its own experiences with self-driving delivery. The automaker has been working with dozens of businesses in Miami in partnership with Postmates. A previous iteration involved working with Domino’s Pizza for a limited trial in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The company is currently testing real autonomous vehicles in Miami, too. These research cars are driving all over the city in autonomous mode while collecting high-definition mapping data. Safety drivers remain behind the wheel of all of Ford’s autonomous vehicles for the time being, although the company is currently building an AV without traditional controls like pedals and steering wheels, which it plans to release by 2021.