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Walmart’s Kickstarting a $1 Trillion Driverless Delivery Market

Retailer starts testing autonomous vehicles for those crucial, if less glamorous, middle miles.

RF self driving autonomous

Source: Getty Images

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Walmart Inc. came to dominate retailing through its mastery of logistics—the complicated choreography of getting goods from farm or factory to the consumer. But even the world’s biggest store doesn’t make money selling its wares online in the U.S., largely due to runaway shipping costs. So Walmart is turning to robots.

On a drizzly morning earlier this month, Walmart’s U.S. chief Greg Foran led reporters to a curbside package pickup kiosk outside its supercenter in Rogers, Arkansas. Idling there were three Ford delivery vans outfitted with self-driving technology developed by a Gatik, a Silicon Valley startup charged with a trial run aimed at cutting Walmart’s middle-mile shipping costs in half. Going driverless in pursuit of profit is a “no-brainer,” Foran said.