Walmart will use fully driverless trucks to make deliveries in 2021

Walmart will use fully autonomous box trucks to make deliveries in Arkansas starting in 2021. The big-box retailer has been working with a startup called Gatik on a delivery pilot for 18 months. Next year, the two companies plan on taking their partnership to the next level by removing the safety driver from their autonomous box trucks.

Gatik, which is based in Palo Alto and Toronto, outfitted several multitemperature box trucks with sensors and software to enable autonomous driving. Since last year, those trucks have been operating on a two-mile route between a “dark store” (a store that stocks items for fulfillment but isn’t open to the public) and a nearby Neighborhood Market in Bentonville, Arkansas. Since then, the vehicles have racked up 70,000 miles in autonomous mode with a safety driver.

Next year, the companies intend to start incorporating fully autonomous trucks into those deliveries. And they plan on expanding to a second location in Louisiana, where trucks with safety drivers will begin delivering items from a “live” Walmart Supercenter to a designated pickup location where customers can retrieve their orders. Those routes, which will begin next year, will be longer than the Arkansas operation — 20-miles between New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana.

“Our trials with Gatik are just two of many use cases we’re testing with autonomous vehicles, and we’re excited to continue learning how we might incorporate them in a delivery ecosystem,” said Tom Ward, Walmart’s senior VP of customer product.

Gatik describes its approach to self-driving hardware and software as “radically divergent.” In a Medium post, Gatik CEO and co-founder Gautam Narang described the process that gives the company the confidence to pull safety drivers out of its vehicles:

We decompose the massive monolithic DNNs into micro-models whose intended functionality is restricted to a very specific explainable task, and build rule-based fallback & validation systems around them. Given extensive knowledge of Gatik’s well-defined ODDs and hybrid architecture, we are able to hyper-optimize our models with exponentially less data, establish gate-keeping mechanisms to maintain explainability, and ensure continued safety of the system for unmanned operations.

Walmart is working with a variety of self-driving companies in its search for the best fit for the company’s massive retail and delivery operations. In addition to Gatik, the big-box company is working with Waymo, Cruise, Nuro, Udelv, Baidu, Ford, and Postmates.

Comments

Here come the robots! And all the jobs are going to go POOF starting next year.

Thanks Obama.

You don’t have the right to force a company to hire you when they don’t require you. Better to tax the company and pay out welfare/universal basic income inside of reducing production (which increases costs for everyone).

Driving jobs might go down some but there will be other jobs that will form out of necessity because of this. Lots of IT jobs, repair jobs (because I imagine the accident rate will go up but hopefully only minor ones), maintenance jobs both mechanically and technologically, etc. There is also the consideration of the cameras which are a HUGE part of the selfless driving experience; they will need their own set of maintenance and upgrading. Plus, one can imagine that these have the potential to be high paying jobs (or at least as good as the current driving jobs).

My biggest concern is pedestrians and their safety (kids more specifically since I am a dad and my kids’ safety is top priority). Wal-Mart better not mess up or else the driverless truck tech won’t last long.

This is a bit of a fallacy. Yes, different jobs will be created but it will be a net loss in employment. Walmart isn’t doing this so they can spend MORE money paying employees downstream …

For example, one of the reasons people are upset about losing manufacturing jobs in the US is partly because China but then they fail to recognize that automation is also a big factor.

So… you expect driverless truck accidents to go up? Over drivers who’re texting, listing to music, eating, or basically bored and zoned out? The goal is fewer drivers. Fewer accidents. Fewer repairs.

They’re not doing this to increase costs.

We’ve seen the same result with auto plants and automation. Plants that once employed 6,000 now employee 600… including the people servicing and maintaining the robots.

This is only good for Walmart.

How do they handle the actual doorstep delivery?

I’m guessing they pull up and you have to find your package in the truck? They will probably have cameras inside the truck to prevent theft.

And they plan on expanding to a second location in Louisiana, where trucks with safety drivers will begin delivering items from a "live" Walmart Supercenter to a designated pickup location where customers can retrieve their orders.

So what I’m assuming is that the cars drive themselves but then the safety driver will be the one who puts them on people’s doorsteps. Seems weird just not to have that person drive the car and make the deliveries.

What good is it if the truck will park in a designated location so the customer can pick it up? Might as well have store pickup. When I order something for delivery, I want it to my door. I also wonder about security. are they going to have lockers inside the truck and email a security code to unlock the one with your order?

It’s just part of the pilot. I think it’s safe to assume they’ll move to something like a Nuro in the near future.

Since last year, those trucks have been operating on a two-mile route between a "dark store" (a store that stocks items for fulfillment but isn’t open to the public)

Also known as a warehouse.

"Hope you like lawsuits!"

I’d say replace the board of directors with robots at Walmart. They’d have more emotion and display far more humanity.

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