Cruise, which is GM’s big effort at autonomous, said Tuesday that it would begin testing autonomous deliveries from Walmart early next year. The cars are also all-electric.
From Walmart’s press release:
This time, we’re cruising over to Scottsdale, Arizona, to rev up a new pilot with self-driving car company, Cruise.
As part of the pilot, which begins early next year, customers can place an order from their local store and have it delivered, contact-free, via one of Cruise’s all-electric self-driving cars.
The announcement was short on details, and Walmart and Cruise did not say how many cars would be involved in the test. A Cruise spokesman also did not say how many cars would be involved but did say, “The number of vehicles will start small, with a goal to expand as the pilot expands.”
Autonomous delivery would seemingly be a lower bar to clear for autonomous companies like Cruise, since if a car full of goods crashes no one is too concerned with how the goods fare. Still, the autonomous car full of goods would also be a threat to other cars on the road, which is why I’m not so convinced it will be any easier to solve for autonomous delivery than for robotaxis.
More long-term, Cruise is in kind of a weird middle at the moment. Its tech seems to be coming along, though everything is taking longer than expected, which has been a theme of autonomous development and not just for Cruise. Remember, Cruise originally said that it would have a Level 4 autonomous vehicle in 2019, but then 2019 came and went and we didn’t get a Level 4 autonomous vehicle. Earlier this year, Cruise said that it would begin production of its Origin, a full-autonomous, full-electric van thing in 2022, which, you know, we’ll see.
Cruise is, by most accounts, behind Waymo, which is Google’s autonomous effort, though probably at least tied with if not ahead of Uber’s autonomous effort, and probably well ahead of Zoox, which is Amazon’s autonomous effort. I would still, at this point, put my money on Waymo to cross the finish line first but Zoox and Cruise certainly have the financial backing to get there as well.