By on July 25, 2018

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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10 Comments on “No Parking Required: Waymo Launches Shuttle Service to Walmart...”

  • avatar

    You’d think people who want to live a car-free life would be having everything delivered.

    This feels more like the shuttle services in Asia that bring in tourists to major shopping areas. Except that in America, you end up at a Wal-Mart instead. I hope it’s free, at least.

  • avatar

    This service would come in handy if you were completely inebriated and felt like going to Walmart.

  • avatar

    So you order something for curbside service, then pay to have a taxi bring you all the way to the store for the pickup lane, and then all the way back home? That’s so completely backwards I can’t even begin to pick it apart.

  • avatar
    George B

    I don’t get using Waymo to go to Walmart to pick up items purchased online. Walmart online purchase and curbside grocery pickup makes sense for car owners because it saves time at the store and can be combined with the drive home from work, but the consumer usually still has to make multiple trips from the car into the kitchen and pantry. That’s not too bad from your car parked in an attached garage, but it’s more time and distance if you’re carrying stuff in from the street.

  • avatar

    I could almost see this being useful for elderly people who are no longer confident in their driving abilities who need to get to the shop and don’t want to wait for a bus. However, for the same people the use of the app might be asking too much. Who exactly is this for?

    Just the other day I was helping my grandmother download directions to Kansas City from Minneapolis; she doesn’t have a smart phone or a mobile data connection on her tablet. Once it was downloaded I had to show her where to find the map. While doing that I could see her getting more and more nervous. I take the technology for granted, but it is legitimately nervewracking for her.

  • avatar

    Going to Walmart in a self driving van. Oh Death, where is thy sting?

  • avatar

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

  • avatar

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

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