Your purchases could end up with such self-driving vehicles in a few years

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A large retailer wants to know if robotic deliveries are part of its retail operations.

So launch a pilot program in collaboration with the technology startup Cruise, supported by General Motors, using self-driving electric vehicles to transport food and other goods to Phoenix customers.

The most contactless delivery service

The project is set to begin sometime in early 2021 and will use battery-powered vehicles from Cruise’s test fleet in Scottsdale, Arizona, according to Tom Ward, Walmart’s senior vice president of customer products.

Cruise said the electricity used to charge the vehicles in its car fleet comes entirely from renewable resources, which helps achieve the retailer’s goal of reducing carbon emissions from its operations.

“Customers can place an order from their local store and receive the package delivered, without contact, through one of Cruise’s self-driving cars,” Ward said.

“The technology that has the potential to save not only customers time and money, but also to help the planet, is the technology we want to learn more about.”

The number of vehicles to be used and the financial terms of the project were not immediately available. Walmart began working with Waymo in the Phoenix area in 2018 (using its Pacifica Hybrid minibuses, which are only partially powered by electricity).

Coronavirus has slowed down plans this year by robot taxi developers such as Cruise and Waymo to extend autonomous rides to more customers, but has stepped up efforts to use the technology for contactless deliveries and logistics operations.

Waymo added its Via service, and Silicon Valley startup Nuro continued to raise funds for its robotic delivery business that was used in tests by Walmart, Kroger’s and CVS.

Cruise focused primarily on refining its autonomous fleet to carry passengers to San Francisco, where the company is headquartered.

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