Self-driving trucks in Walmart’s online business

While Russian officials are building (so far in words) grandiose projects of unmanned cargo transportation, large US grocery companies and, in particular, Walmart, have already begun to use autonomous cargo vehicles and to transport goods.

Walmart recently announced the use of fully autonomous trucks in its online grocery business. The implementation of this project, according to representatives of the company, will increase the throughput and efficiency of transportation.

The Walmart program launched in partnership with startup Gatik in December 2020 after approval from the Arkansas Highway Commission.

The partnership between the company and startups is focused on transportation in the supply chain – from the warehouse to the retailer.

“We are thrilled to be working with Gatik to achieve this industry-first driverless milestone. Working with Gatik, we’ve found that autonomous delivery trucks offer an efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly solution for transporting goods on repetitive routes between our stores,” Walmart Senior Vice President Tom Ward said in a press release.

And Gatik CEO Gautam Narang told CNBC that “driver removal is the holy grail of this technology. The trust of the world’s largest retailer has been a huge boost to our operations and a testament to our technology, our solutions and our progress.”

– The old delivery architecture where you have a giant distribution center four or five hours away from the end customer doesn’t work anymore. Grocers are forced to build these fulfillment centers closer to the customer, and once you get closer to the customer, you have to reduce the size of your warehouse, Narang said. – As size decreases, the need for repeat trips from fulfillment centers to pickup points increases. This is where we come into play,” he added.

The use of automated vehicles, emphasized Walmart, is also the release of employee time for other tasks, including collecting and packaging online orders, helping customers, etc.

There were also very significant financial benefits of using autonomous trucks for logistics. So, Gatik said that the use of unmanned vehicles will give a thirty percent reduction in logistics costs in the grocery business.

This solution, according to Narang, is also relevant “for different supply chains, different types of logistics.” The main (unifying) advantage is “increased efficiency and reduced operating costs”.

Other companies aren’t wasting time either: Kroger (which has been testing autonomous delivery with startup Nuro since 2018), which owns a supermarket chain, said it had already completed its first 1,000 “last mile” deliveries in Houston, Texas.

Albertsons is also testing last-mile delivery in Northern California with startup Tortoise.

And it seems that the successful start of autonomous cargo transportation will continue in the same vein. True, with one small “correction” – this process will be constantly improved.

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