No Parking Required: Waymo Launches Shuttle Service to Walmart

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Remember how everyone talked about autonomous vehicles like they would deliver humanity into a cleaner, safer future where all the disgusting trappings of our past would be a distant memory? It’s not playing out quite like that. In fact, as the reality of self-driving cars inches ever closer, we’re seeing weird corporate partnerships and companies looking to make a buck anywhere they can as the consumer serves double duty as master and commodity.

If you need a present-day example, look no further. Waymo, the autonomous arm of Google parent Alphabet Inc., is launching a pilot program this summer that intends to shuttle passengers to Walmart and other partner locales. Members of the firm’s “early rider program” will be able to catch a ride to the retail outlet after using its online component to place an order (which qualifies them for discounts in the future).

While the goods are being prepared at the store, Waymo will dispatch a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica to the customer in order to bring them to it — sort of like a reverse delivery service. However, Walmart is far from the only corporate partner Waymo has right now.

Focusing on the area of Phoenix where the technology firm is already testing its vehicles, Waymo is offering rides to the fancy sounding Ahwatukee Foothills Towne Center shopping plaza. That deal is thanks to a partnership with the real estate investment trust DDR Corp. There’s also an arrangement with the Element Hotel in Chandler, Arizona to offer select guests access to a “VIP experience” using Waymo’s vehicles. The company used business travelers who need to commute to and from the office during their frequent stays as an example.

The last partnership is actually an expansion of an existing relationship with AutoNation and Avis Budget Group. AutoNation, who already helps Waymo service and maintain its vehicles in Phoenix, will now offer customers access to Waymo — instead of using loaner car — when their personal vehicle is being serviced. Meanwhile, Avis will begin providing Waymo vans to its Phoenix customers to help them pick up or drop off their rental cars.

Roughly half of these corporate tie-ins are cringe inducing, but several seem like fairly sound ideas — most notably the shuttle arrangement with Avis. However, we’re positive that plenty of people will be elated to know they can order their groceries online and get a free ride to Walmart to pick them up, or snag a gratis transport to the mall.

“While these are Metro Phoenix-specific partnerships today, these businesses are national and what we learn from these programs will give us a network of partners when we launch in new cities down the road,” Waymo said in a post referencing the new programs. “We’re proud to be a part of Metro Phoenix and are excited to grow and add partnerships that support the cities we operate in, bring unique value to our riders, and give more people access to a safe, self-driving future.”

[Images: Waymo]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Lockstops Lockstops on Jul 26, 2018

    A chauffeur service to Walmart. Finally it's affordable enough for the masses...no wait.

  • Akear Akear on Jul 27, 2018

    The pet rock industry has more of a future than the autonomous vehicle. The hype will wear out in a few years.

  • Lou_BC Ironic, the Honda Ridgeline, a truck that every truck guy loves to hate is in 6th place.
  • 28-Cars-Later I keep forgetting I own it, but the space look on the ext cab reminds me of my 'Yota pickup of the same model year. I'm pretty sure there is some vintage of Hilux which features the same looking ext cab window (maybe '88?) its a shame these things are mostly gone and when available are $1,000,000,000 [INSERT CURRENT CURRENCY].
  • Sayahh Imagine if Ford had Toyota design and build a Mustang engine. It will last over 300k miles! (Skip turbo and make it naturally aspirated.) Maybe Yamaha will help tune it...
  • Sobhuza Trooper Isuzu's crime was to build some damn good trucks.Shame on them.
  • El scotto Listen, unless you were Lord Headly-Stempmoor or such when you got off the off the boat, boot in Canada, you got the short end of the stick. People got on the boat, these days a plane, to escape famine, becoming cannon fodder in yet another stupid war, or the government thought it was A-OK to let soldiers kill you. Juneteenth is just a way to right one of the more bad ideas in the American experiment. Instead we have commenters who were buying tater chips and diet soda at Wal-Mart and got all butt-hurt because they heard someone who wasn't speaking English. I'm going to go fix a couple of frankfurters with salsa and guacamole and wash them down with a lager or three
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