Walmart is taking the next step with their autonomous truck program. No safety driver. No observer in the passenger seat. They’re going fully driverless.
Walmart has partnered with autonomous startup Gatik for a pilot program to test out driverless trucks. They ran box trucks on a short route between a fulfillment center and a store in Bentonville, Arkansas. Over the past year and a half of the pilot, the vehicles have logged 70,000 miles driving the same two-mile stretch of road back and forth.
According to Gatik’s CEO, they deliberately restricted their pilot program to a small area.
“It’s an approach we refer to as structured autonomy,” Gautam Narang, the CEO of Gatik said according to Engadget. “It’s safe and efficient because it enables us to constrain the challenge of autonomy, thereby heavily over-optimizing our delivery routes and minimizing edge-cases.”
So up until now, the trucks have been driving on incredibly familiar roads, with a safety driver behind the wheel. But starting in the new year all of that will change.
First, that two-mile stretch of road in Bentonville will be travelled by fully autonomous vehicles with no humans aboard. Second, the program will be expanding to Louisiana in order to drive a 20-mile route between Metairie, Louisiana and a Walmart Supercenter in New Orleans. Initially, the new route will have safety drivers.
“This achievement marks a new milestone that signifies the first ever driverless operation carried out on the supply chain middle mile for both Gatik and Walmart,” said a Walmart executive in a statement.