Walmart is signaling its commitment to autonomous deliveries with a new investment in self-driving company Cruise. The two already have a cozy relationship, having recently worked together on a delivery pilot in Scottsdale, Arizona. Walmart was so impressed with Cruise's "differentiated business, unique tech and unmatched driverless testing" that it decided to take part in the GM subsidiary's $2.75 billion funding round.
The investment will see Cruise become an important part of the retailer's "last mile delivery ecosystem" — industry parlance for the final journey from warehouse to customer. Walmart has struck additional partnerships on driverless deliveries with companies including Google's Waymo, Ford and Udelv. Most of these involve limited trials, but Walmart is adamant that autonomous vehicles will play a bigger part in retail.
"This investment is a marker for us – it shows our commitment to bringing the benefit of self-driving cars to our customers and business," Walmart chief John Furner noted in a blog post. "It’s no longer a question of if they’ll be scaled, but when."
Walmart's decision arrives just months after it announced its membership program, Walmart Plus, in a bid to rival Amazon Prime. Both companies have witnessed a massive windfall in profits during the pandemic that could be put toward automating more parts of their operations. The two are also trying to control their massive carbon footprints by investing in sustainable delivery fleets. It helps that Cruise has committed to using all-electric cars supplied by GM in its network from the outset.