Argo AI, Ford Motor Company, and Walmart U.S. will soon roll out something called “last-mile delivery.” What is that, exactly? It pairs consumer demands (Walmart) with autonomous vehicle services (Argo AI and Ford) to meet consumers where they’re at — home.
The trifecta will begin test-driving this emerging technology in late 2021. Three major cities will host the initial rollout: Austin, Miami, and Washington D.C. — top among America’s fastest-growing (and busiest) markets.
Project leaders have isolated small service areas within each city in which to incubate and refine the program. Once they’ve achieved a cost-effective and scalable service delivery model (and ironed out self-driving car codes with the necessary state legislatures), it’s go-time. Expansion of last-mile services is the endgame, and the three brands are confident that horizon isn’t far off.
The Last-Mile Brain: Argo AI
Argo AI is leading the technological charge. Specifically, it’s developed a cloud-based infrastructure and tailored it to meet Ford and Walmart’s operational needs. The software integrates “seamlessly” with Walmart’s online ordering system. Argo follows its integration up with allegedly robust algorithms to control routing and scheduling dynamics.
In partial owing to its several-year partnership with Ford, Argo AI has positioned itself as a pioneer and frontrunner on the tech side of autonomous fleet vehicles. The company’s proprietary Self-Driving System in Miami and D.C. is a specimen of its work with Ford.
In 2018 and 2019, the duo rolled out delivery and ride-hailing pilot programs to the metro areas. The collab was a successful proving ground for both partners, and their presence in Miami and D.C. established crucial “real estate footprints” for the enterprise. That includes critical, niche infrastructure like fueling stations and servicing and cleaning hubs.
The Last-Mile Braun: Ford
Ford, of course, will supply the autonomous commercial fleet. “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,” said CEO Scott Griffith, who heads up Ford’s Autonomous Vehicles & Mobility line. “Argo and Ford are aggressively preparing for large-scale autonomous vehicle operations across a broad footprint of U.S. cities.”
The Economic Driver: Walmart
The official press release defines the driving force behind the initiative, Walmart’s ticket to consumer demand:
“This combination builds on Walmart’s leadership in adopting emerging technologies to meet growing consumer expectations and enhance the last-mile delivery process. The multi-city service will enable Walmart customers to place orders of groceries and other popular items online for autonomous door-to-door delivery directly to customers’ homes.”
“We’re excited to expand our autonomous delivery efforts in three new markets alongside Argo and Ford,” said Tom Ward, senior VP of Last-Mile Delivery for Walmart U.S. “This collaboration will further our mission to get products to the homes of our customers with unparalleled speed and ease, and in turn, will continue to pave the way for autonomous delivery.”