Customers of Walmart and other businesses in the Phoenix area will soon have a chance to go shopping in self-driving cars.
Waymo, a subsidiary of Google-parent Alphabet, is teaming with the retail giant to test a program that'll have people riding in self-driving cars to run errands and shop, the autonomous car company said Wednesday. People who order groceries on Walmart.com will get discounts, and as their orders are being readied, driverless Waymo vehicles will ferry customers to and from a Walmart store in Chandler, Arizona.
Waymo is also teaming with Avis, AutoNation, Element Hotel and commercial real estate firm DDR to offer self-driving vehicles to people doing business with the companies.
"While these are metro Phoenix-specific partnerships today, these businesses are national, and what we learn from these programs will give us a network of partners when we launch in new cities down the road," Waymo said in a blog post.
The service is initially available to about 400 participants in Waymo's early-rider program within a 100-square-mile section of Phoenix. The company that started in 2009 as Google's self-driving car project will also give people rides while their cars are serviced at area AutoNation repair shops, along with lifts to restaurants and shops in the Ahwatukee Foothills Town Center.
Tom Ward, a Walmart vice president, put in a plug for the pilot project in his own blog post. "Our personal shoppers get to work meticulously picking customers' orders based on their pickup times. Waymo does the rest! They transport customers to and from pickup, and all the while, those customers can text, nap, work... you name it!"
Waymo will hope its self-driving trial in Arizona steers clear of the problems that befell Uber earlier this year. The ride-hailing companyin the state earlier this year after a self-driving vehicle struck and killed a woman in Phoenix. A police investigation later found that the back-up driver behind the wheel of the Uber vehicle had been watching a TV program on her phone.