Walmart to Test Self-Driving Cars

Walmart (NYSE;WMT) is expanding its self-driving vehicle program to include Ford Motor (NYSE:F) and Argo AI, an autonomous car start-up backed by the automaker.

The companies said Wednesday that the collaboration will use Ford Escape hybrids with Argo AI technology for Walmart deliveries in Miami, the District of Columbia and Austin, Texas.

The program will allow Walmart customers to place orders of groceries and other items online for door-to-door autonomous delivery.

Ford and Walmart operated a pilot program with self-driving vehicles in 2018. The retail giant currently operates self-driving delivery pilots with Gatik and General Motors-backed Cruise. In addition to the partnerships, Walmart took an undisclosed stake earlier this year in Cruise.

Online grocery orders are a central part of Walmart+, the big-box retailer’s membership program that launched a year ago. One of the perks of the program is free, unlimited grocery deliveries to members’ homes. The subscription service competes with Amazon Prime.

Walmart, the nation’s largest grocer, saw dramatic growth in online sales during the pandemic as more consumers stayed at home and replenished their fridges from the couch. Its e-commerce sales in the U.S. grew 79% in the last fiscal year, which ended Jan. 31. Yet Walmart hasn’t turned a profit with its e-commerce business, putting pressure on the company to come up with more cost-effective ways to deliver boxes and armfuls of items to doors.

WMT shares began Wednesday down 48 cents to $143.82, while those for Ford gathered three cents to $12.89.