No Parking Required: Waymo Launches Shuttle Service to Walmart

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
no parking required waymo launches shuttle service to walmart

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]

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  • Lockstops Lockstops on Jul 26, 2018

    A chauffeur service to Walmart. Finally it's affordable enough for the 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.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic Drove a rental Cherokee for several days at the beginning of this year. Since the inventory of rental cars is still low, this was a 2020 model with 48k miles and V6. Ran fine, no gremlins, graphics display was easy to work, plenty of power, & very comfortable. Someone must of disarmed the lane assistance feature for the steering wheel never shook (YES!!!!!!!!). However, this woman's voice kept nagging me about the speed limit (what's new!?!?!?!).I was impressed enough to consider this a prime candidate to replace my 11 yr old Ford Escape. Might get a good deal with the close out of the model. Time will tell. 🚗🚗🚗
  • Bullnuke One wonders if this poor woman entered the US through Roxham Road...
  • Johnds Years ago I pulled over a vehicle from either Manitoba or Ontario in North Dakota for speeding. The license plates and drivers license did not come up on my dispatchers computer. The only option was to call their government. Being that it was 2 am, that wasn’t possible so they were given a warning.
  • BEPLA My own theory/question on the Mark VI:Had Lincoln used the longer sedan wheelbase on the coupe - by leaning the windshield back and pushing the dashboard & steering wheel rearward a bit - not built a sedan - and engineered the car for frameless side windows (those framed windows are clunky, look cheap, and add too many vertical lines in comparison to the previous Marks) - Would the VI have remained an attractive, aspirational object of desire?
  • VoGhost Another ICEbox? Pass. Where are you going to fill your oil addiction when all the gas stations disappear for lack of demand? I want a pickup that I can actually use for a few decades.