Walmart begins investing $1 trillion into autonomous delivery

June 23, 2019
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Walmart focused on the logistics of retail as they grew into the giant of the company they are today. However, despite being such a large company they have run into a wave of new issues, shipping costs. 

So Walmart is turning to robots.

On a drizzly morning earlier this month, Walmart’s U.S. Chief Greg Foran led reporters to a curbside package pickup kiosk outside its supercenter in Rogers, Ark. Idling there were three Ford delivery vans outfitted with self-driving technology developed by a Gatik, a Silicon Valley startup charged with a trial run aimed at cutting Walmart’s middle-mile shipping costs in half. Going driverless in pursuit of profit is a “no-brainer,” Foran said.

As the buzz about human-carting robotaxis starts to short-circuit, an unheralded segment of the driverless future is taking shape and showing promise: goods-moving robovans. Rather than serving up hot pizza pies or deploying headless robots to carry groceries to the doorstep, robovans travel on fixed routes from warehouse to warehouse or to a smaller pickup point, transporting packages to get them closer, but not all the way, to consumers.

This may be the least glamorous part of the driverless delivery business, but the market for these monotonous “middle miles” could reach $1 trillion and may provide the fastest path to prosperity, analysts say.

“This area has the least number of obstacles and the most certain return on invested capital in the near term,” said Mike Ramsey, an analyst with consultant Gartner Inc. “If you’re looking to start a business where you can actually generate revenue, this has fewer barriers than the taxi market.”

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