Walmart taps startup Udelv to test autonomous grocery deliveries in Arizona

More autonomous vehicles are poised to descend on Arizona. This time, Walmart has signed a deal with startup Udelv to test the use of autonomous vans to deliver online grocery orders to customers.

Under the agreement, Udelv will provide its second-generation autonomous delivery van, called the Newton, to Walmart to deliver groceries in Surprise, Arizona. The trial is set to begin in February, Udelv announced Tuesday at CES 2019.

The Newton, which is being shown at CES, is based on Baidu’s latest Apollo 3.5 open-source software platform.

The Walmart pilot isn’t the only deal that Udelv has locked in and announced at CES 2019. Up to 100 Udelv ADVs will be deployed in 2019 for last and middle-mile delivery on public roads in several cities throughout the country, the company said.

Udelv announced a contract with automotive aftermarket parts distribution business XL Parts to use self-driving delivery vans in Houston, Texas. Udelv said it will provide up to 10 ADVs to XL Parts, with the first vehicle being delivered in mid 2019. 

The company, which has already completed about 1,200 deliveries on public roads in San Francisco for more than a dozen paying clients, didn’t disclose the amount of the strategic investment from Japanese business giant Marubeni Corporation.  

Udelv said the collaboration between the two companies will serve to fast-track Udelv’s expansion, leveraging the buying power and various other internal resources of the Marubeni Corporation.

The deal with Walmart is small for now, but could prove to be a turning point for Udelv, if it’s successful.

The autonomous delivery vans will operate with safety drivers until both companies, as well as regulators, deem them approved for a safe removal of the safety driver, Udelv said.

These self-driving delivery vans will be able to travel at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour on urban and suburban roads, including highways. The vans are outfitted with a cargo system designed to carry up to 32 customer orders per delivery cycle. 

Walmart’s agreement with Udelv follows Walmart’s pilot program with self-driving company Waymo that launched last year. Waymo is taking its early rider program passengers to and from a Walmart store in Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix. 

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