Ford, Walmart collaborate to design automated-vehicle delivery
MIAMI, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co, Walmart Inc
and delivery service Postmates Inc will collaborate to
design a service for delivering groceries and other goods to
Walmart customers that could someday use autonomous vehicles,
the companies said on Wednesday.
The project is the latest to grow out of Ford’s broader
effort to develop businesses that could use automated delivery
vehicles. Ford was working with San Francisco-based Postmates
already to develop delivery services that could employ automated
The Walmart pilot initially will use human-driven vehicles
operated to simulate how a self-driving vehicle would behave,
Ford said. Ford has said it expects to launch commercial
production of automated vehicles by 2021.
Ford and its partners are using Miami as a testing ground
for automated delivery service ideas and automated vehicle
The new pilot project will offer customers delivery by
Postmates of goods ordered at Walmart stores. Brian Wolf, an
executive of Ford’s autonomous vehicle unit, wrote in a blog
post that the companies will work over the next “couple of
months” to figure out what goods can be delivered successfully,
especially perishable groceries.
That could require new designs or equipment for vehicles,
Wolf wrote. Among the challenges Ford has said it is working on
is designing on-board storage systems that are easy for
customers to open to retrieve a pizza or a package.
Postmates, according to its website, operates in 385 U.S.
cities, as well as Mexico. It offers delivery from
brick-and-mortar restaurants and stores.
Walmart is competing with online retailer Amazon.com
and other rivals to cut the cost of delivering goods
over what industry executives call “the last mile” to customers
who order online.
Replacing human delivery van drivers with robotic systems
could reduce last-mile delivery costs. But the technology is
still expensive, and the industry is still waiting for
regulations that could help protect automated vehicle owners or
manufacturers from liability claims.
Ford has emphasized commercial uses of autonomous vehicle
technology, such as goods delivery, in contrast to rival General
Motors Co, which is working to build a robot taxi service
at its GM Cruise unit.
Ford is in discussions with German automaker Volkswagen AG
about a possible investment in its self-driving
vehicle unit, people familiar with the situation said. No deal
has been announced.
In July, Ford said it would create a new business unit, Ford
Autonomous Vehicles LLC, to house its self-driving vehicle
operations. The automaker said it would invest a total of $4
billion in the unit through 2023.
(Reporting by Joe White
Editing by Leslie Adler)
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