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AI Takeover Continues: Walmart to Begin Driverless Deliveries

(Jonathan Gitlin | Ars Technica) – It’s easy to feel like the autonomous vehicle (AV) industry has settled into the trough of sorrow. The hyperbolic buzz around self-driving cars that was all the rage a few years ago has become tempered as developers discover that not only do humans drive well—which sets a high bar for their robocars—but humans also drive badly in unique ways depending upon where they are. (People drive badly in Las Vegas differently from the way they drive badly in San Francisco, and so on.)

Our streets might not be overflowing with robotaxis as we were promised circa 2017, but here and there, AV companies are beginning commercial deployments. Argo AI, the AV startup heavily backed by Ford, Volkswagen, and others, is one of those companies. On Wednesday, Argo, Ford, and Walmart revealed that they will be working together to roll out last-mile deliveries from the retail giant’s stores in Austin, Texas; Miami, Florida; and Washington, DC.

“Our focus on the testing and development of self-driving technology that operates in urban areas where customer demand is high really comes to life with this collaboration,” said Bryan Salesky, founder and CEO of Argo AI. “Working together with Walmart and Ford across three markets, we’re showing the potential for autonomous vehicle delivery services at scale.”

“Argo and Ford are aggressively preparing for large-scale autonomous vehicle operations across a broad footprint of US cities,” said Scott Griffith, the CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility Businesses. “Pairing Walmart’s retail and e-commerce leadership with Argo and Ford’s self-driving operations across these multiple cities marks a significant step toward scaling a commercial goods delivery service that will ultimately power first-to-scale business efficiencies and enable a great consumer experience.”

Argo AI and Ford have been testing their AV systems in Miami and DC since 2018 and began testing in Austin the following year. The trio says that the first autonomous deliveries to Walmart customers will begin later this year. Around the same time, Ford and Argo will start deploying passenger-carrying robotaxis in Austin and Miami.

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