Cruise expands Walmart autonomous delivery pilot in Arizona

Cruise, the self-driving car unit of General Motors, has expanded its autonomous delivery pilot with Walmart in Arizona. The company will now be doing limited deliveries for customers in Chandler, in addition to Scottsdale.

The news comes a couple of months after Cruise had teased the expansion at a public meeting with Arizona state legislators, wherein Carter Stern, Cruise’s senior government affairs manager, said the company would expand to eight Walmarts in the Phoenix and Scottsdale areas by the end of the year before exporting self-driving delivery to the rest of the country.

Cruise’s initial pilot with the Walmart located on Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community lands near Scottsdale began in November 2020. In April 2021, Walmart became an investor in Cruise to aid the development of its autonomous delivery ecosystem.

The expanded pilot, which now features the Walmart in north Chandler on Warner Road, will still have limited availability between the two stores. Cruise will offer delivery from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., in a service area that Cruise says is set by customer demand and varies by location. The company did not share its operational design domains in each city, which it says is constantly evolving.

Cruise did not respond to queries about how many vehicles are included in the pilot, but the company did confirm that it would be continuing to use its Chevy Bolt EVs, which will be chaperoned by a human safety driver.

The addition of Chandler brings Cruise’s potential addressable market in Arizona up to a respectable number. Chandler’s population was about 253,000 as of 2019, whereas Cruise’s initial pilot takes place in a less populated area.

Walmart customers are told that they’ll save money by opting to have their orders delivered by Cruise. To opt-in, they must place their Walmart order online and agree to receive SMS messages. If their order qualifies, they’ll receive a message from Cruise asking if they’d like to receive their parcel from one of Cruise’s vehicles.

If they say yes, they can track their order and receive notifications when the vehicle is two minutes away and when it has arrived. Customers then meet the car at the curb, using their phone to unlock the rear passenger door, grab the order and then, if polite, close the door.

The expansion of the self-driving delivery pilot in Arizona should bring in some much-needed revenue for Cruise as it sets out to increase both delivery and robotaxi operations.

Most of Cruise’s operations are focused on San Francisco, where the company is offering free driverless robotaxi services to the public. Cruise cannot currently charge for its ride-hailing service until it secures a permit from the California Public Utilities Commission.

Cruise’s service in San Francisco is available from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Arizona is also where Waymo, Cruise’s main competitor, operates a commercial robotaxi service in Phoenix.

This article was updated to include populations in the cities where Cruise is operating autonomous delivery for Walmart, as well as some limited information from Cruise. Previously the article stated that Cruise operated within a one-mile radius of the Walmart stores.