When most people think about how self-driving cars will help retailers, the image that comes to mind often is a robot car whisking a delivery to a customer’s door, but according to an article in Bloomberg the reality — at least in the near term — will be different.
Analysts cited by the news service estimate the market for transporting goods on a fixed route from warehouse to warehouse using driverless vehicles could reach $1 trillion. These miles in the middle help get goods closer to their final destination.
Walmart, which has experienced a boom in online sales, will begin using robot cars to transport goods in between warehouses, in the hopes that the company will be able to cut costs and increase efficiency.
Walmart spokeswoman Molly Blakeman told CNBC the retailer is working with its partner Gatik, a self-driving vehicle startup, to test out a self-driving vehicle. It will travel along a two-mile route in Bentonville, Arkansas between two stores.
“We are working with city and state officials to obtain the approval we need to operate and plan to start the pilot program this summer with the aim being to learn about the logistics of adding AVs into our ecosystem, operation and process changes, and more opportunities to incorporate this emerging technology,” Blakeman said.
Consumers have grown wary of robot-taxis due to accidents like the killing of a pedestrian last year by Uber’s new test car, Bloomberg reported.
The robo-trucks also take out the human element, eliminating the hassle of human passengers and the cost to create a passenger compartment in the first place.
With the rise of online shopping, the robots also fill a huge demand for truck drivers. A shortage of drivers has led to 60,000 unfilled long-haul positions, according to data Bloomberg cited from the American Trucking Association.