Walmart and Ford Are Testing Autonomous Delivery in Miami

Exploring how customers want to interact with self-driving cars

America's largest retailer is testing self-driving cars in Miami.
Headshot of Lisa Lacy

Two American institutions are partnering to deliver groceries to your door.

Walmart and Ford, bridging Arkansas and Michigan via a test in Miami will “explore delivery with autonomous vehicle technology” with last-mile delivery company Postmates, which Walmart said is now connected to Ford’s digital platform. In an announcement, Tom Ward, svp of digital operations for Walmart U.S., said Walmart is still learning, but “we want to make sure we stay on the cutting edge of grocery delivery.” Currently, grocery delivery is wildly experimental, but something brands nationwide are trying to figure out.

In July, Walmart announced a similar pilot with Google’s former self-driving car project Waymo in Chandler, Ariz. The service transported 400 so-called early riders for grocery pickup.

At the time, Ward noted the purpose was to learn.

“While giving customers a unique experience with amazing technology, we’re learning how we can make Walmart Online Grocery Pickup even more convenient,” he added.

Similarly, the Ford partnership is intended to help Walmart learn more about how self-driving cars can deliver groceries.

“Before self-driving cars can go mainstream, we must get a better sense of how people want to interact with them,” Ward said. “Together, we will gather crucial data to learn the best way to bring items to customers.”

But this isn’t the only self-driving, grocery-delivering game in town.

Grocery retailer Kroger began a pilot with robotics company Nuro in Scottsdale, Ariz. in August. Customers place orders through Kroger’s online grocery-order service ClickList and Nuro’s app. They are delivered by an autonomous vehicle, which, in a post on the Kroger Stories site, Kroger noted were specifically designed to only transport goods. Customers are given access codes to open the vehicle to retrieve their orders when it arrives.

Shoppers in Florida and Arizona have a dizzying array of online grocery options. Retail warehouse club Sam’s Club, for example, has also worked with delivery service Deliv in Miami. And Amazon offers Whole Foods delivery through Prime Now in 63 cities, including Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Phoenix and Tucson. The Amazon Fresh grocery delivery service is also available in Miami. Meanwhile, Target is testing grocery delivery via last-mile company Shipt in Florida and Instacart delivers for Kroger in Phoenix, for Publix in Florida and for Aldi in Miami. To name a few.

@lisalacy Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.