Ford and Walmart are teaming up to test delivering products with self-driving cars

Ford is teaming up with Walmart in Miami to explore product delivery. Ford
  • Ford on Wednesday announced it was partnering with Walmart and Postmates to explore how the companies could use self-driving vehicles to deliver products in Miami-Dade County in Florida.
  • Ford expects to test delivery of items such as groceries, toiletries, pet food, and other consumer products.
  • As part of the program, Ford will be testing various vehicle designs to see what works best for shipping different items.

Ford’s self-driving cars could soon be delivering Walmart products in Miami-Dade County in Florida.

Ford on Wednesday announced it was teaming up with Walmart and the delivery service Postmates to test the ways its self-driving vehicles could be used to deliver products like groceries, toiletries, pet food, and other consumer items.

Walmart and Ford were already Postmates partners, so they are using the company’s delivery-fulfillment infrastructure to help power the pilot program.

“Over the next couple of months, we’ll be working closely with Walmart to understand its operations, identify what goods we can feasibly transport, and pinpoint any issues that may need to be addressed to successfully deliver orders via self-driving vehicles,” Brian Wolf, the director of business development for Ford Autonomous Vehicles, said in a company blog post.

Ford has said it aims to roll out a self-driving fleet of vehicles for a ride-hailing service by 2021, but the company also has ambitions to use autonomous technology to make a big push into logistics.

Ford self-driving car

“The logistics opportunity is enormous,” Ford’s CEO, Jim Hackett, told Business Insider in January. “For small businesses, this is a big advantage. They have been suffering. In retail right now, scale drives out the small retailers. Logistics equalizes some of that.”

A 2016 McKinsey study estimated that autonomous vehicles, including drones, would account for about 80% of all consumer parcel deliveries during the next 10 years. What’s more, by 2050, transporting goods both locally and long distances with autonomous vehicles could generate $US2.9 trillion in revenue, according to a study by Strategy Analytics.

In February, Ford announced a partnership with Domino’s to test its autonomous vehicles in Miami for delivering pizza.

Wolf said in the company blog post on Wednesday that Ford had made more than 1,000 deliveries in its “initial phase” of self-driving vehicles, and that its partnership with Walmart would help it in its endeavour to bring self-driving cars to market in a way “that people actually want to experience.”

As part of the program, Wolf also said Ford would be testing various vehicle designs to see what works best for shipping different items.

“Together, we’ll be using research vehicles, designed to simulate an autonomous experience, to gather crucial data about consumer preferences and learn the best way we can conveniently connect people with the goods they need,” Wolf said in the blog post.

Ford driverless van
A Ford Autolivery concept. Ford

“Naturally, orders from a supermarket will tend to be larger and more varied than orders from a restaurant or dry cleaner,” Wolf said. “So we’ll be exploring different vehicle configurations or modifications that we could make to meet people’s needs – especially to accommodate perishable goods, or scenarios where our vehicles end up making multiple deliveries on a single trip.”

This means we could see concept vehicles like Ford’s autonomous-delivery robot, dubbed Autolivery, or possibly even an autonomous delivery van or truck, come to fruition.