Need a Ride to Walmart? Waymo Will Take You There in a Driverless Minivan
【Summary】Waymo is emerging as the leader in the self-driving car race and part of the company’s mission is to provide on demand mobility for all. The self-driving arm of Alphabet has just announced a partnership with Walmart and is offering free trips to and from a Walmart store in one of Waymo’s autonomous driving minivans in a newly launched pilot program.
Waymo is emerging as the leader in the self-driving car race and part of the company's mission is to provide on-demand mobility for all who need it. The self-driving arm of Alphabet has just announced a partnership with Walmart, where Waymo will offer free trips to and from a Walmart store in one of Waymo's autonomous driving minivans.
The new pilot program is rolling out in the Phoenix metro area. Walmart is the largest brick-and-mortar retailer in the U.S., as well as the country's largest employer.
Starting this week, Walmart and Waymo will launch a test pilot that gives early riders discounts on groceries each week when they are ordered online at Walmart.com. While orders are being prepared at the store, Waymo's driverless vehicles will transport the customer to and from Walmart to pickup their groceries.
Since launching its Early Rider Program in 2017, Waymo has working with partners to create new experiences, while providing on-demand mobility with its growing fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans.
As part of its Early Rider Program, Waymo has been collecting data about where people want to go. The company found that most of the trips people are taking are to run errands or shop for groceries. With these customer insights, Waymo hopes its partnership with Walmart will provide a valuable service to many people.
Right now, the program is limited to the Phoenix metro area, but Waymo is planning to expand its autonomous ride-hailing service to other cities.
In addition to the partnership with Walmart, Waymo is expanding its existing partnerships with automotive retailer AutoNation and rental car company Avis Budget Group. AutoNation and Avis already work with Waymo maintaining its fleet of driverless minivans in Arizona.
If a driver needs their car serviced at Autonation's service center, the company will now offer them a self-driving Waymo, rather than a loaner car, to get around. When their car is ready, a self-driving Waymo van will pick the customer up and drop them off at the service center.
Rental car company Avis Budget Group will also offer the Waymo minivans as a last mile solution for Avis customers in Phoenix—to help them pick up or drop off their rental cars, beginning with their two Chandler, Arizona locations.
For Waymo, Avis and AutoNation are ideal partners, since they are already working together to service and support Waymo's fleet. In addition to the the deal with Walmart, Avis and Autonation, Waymo is working with the Element Hotel in Chandler.
Select guests staying at the Element Hotel will get access to Waymo vehicles. For example, a business traveler might need to commute to and from the office during their frequent stays and Waymo is allowing them a chance to experience fully self-driving technology. The guests can use the autonomous van as a personal chauffeur to get around the city.
The service provided by Waymo is part of an industry-wide trend to provide smart mobility services, which include on-demand transportation, car-sharing services and other last mile solutions, as personal car-ownership is expected to deline.
Although the service is limited right now to Arizona, working with these national partners will help Waymo scale the services to other cities in the future, creating an entire transportation ecosystem to help people get around. The partnership with Walmart has the potential to expand to other regions. Walmart has 5,295 stores in the U.S. and nearly 90 percent of all Americans live within a 15 minute drive to a Walmart store.
Waymo wrote in a blog post, "We're proud to be a part of Metro Phoenix and are excited to grow and add partnerships that support the cities we operate in, bring unique value to our riders, and give more people access to a safe, self-driving future."
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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