Walmart has recently announced a plan to partner with autonomous delivery company Udelv to deliver groceries to shoppers in Surprise. The company says that “What’s really cool is that Udelv will utilize a cargo van custom-made to deliver fresh groceries – hand-picked by our personal shoppers – to customers.”
How will the new delivery system work? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Autonomous Delivery?
Autonomous deliveries are made by a driverless van from Udelv. The vans run on electricity, and – in the case of the Walmart deliveries – are specially fitted with refrigerated compartments designed to deliver fresh groceries.
The compartments are locked, but you’ll be able to unlock your groceries by simply tapping your phone against the compartment. That means that your groceries will be locked away until you receive them.
Here’s an overview of how the process works:
- You log in to your Walmart.com account and choose the groceries you want.
- Your groceries are selected by a Walmart personal shopper.
- Your groceries are packaged and put into a locked compartment on a Udelv delivery van.
- The van travels to your location.
- You receive a push notification that your groceries have arrived.
- You tap your phone against the compartment with your groceries and accept your delivery.
The process is designed to be easy and intuitive. Autonomous deliveries cost less than regular deliveries. They also allow for easier scheduling, so you can choose to have your groceries delivered when you know you’ll be at home.
Are Autonomous Deliveries Safe?
Convenience is one thing, but it’s natural to wonder about safety issues when hearing about autonomous deliveries for the first time. Can a driverless van really be safe?
The first thing you need to know is that autonomous driving is legal in the state of Arizona, and many states have introduced or passed legislation to regulate and legalize it. In Arizona, it was legalized via an executive order from the governor.
Udelv uses an advanced tele-operations system to monitor their fleet of autonomous vans. They remotely drive the vans when needed, something that helps their vehicles navigate complex driving situations.
To prevent issues, the vehicles used by Udelv operate only within geo-fenced areas called Operating Design Domains, or ODDs. If something occurs to put the vehicle outside of the ODD, the vehicles are programmed to safely abort the trip by parking it. The parking may be overridden by one of the company’s tele-operators.
Local grocery store Fry’s introduced a similar pilot program in 2018, which was designed only for a two-mile radius around the store.
The autonomous delivery service from Walmart was expected to kick off in January, 2019. It may take local residents some time to get accustomed to the idea of getting their groceries from a driverless van, but there’s no question that the service offers a new (and exciting) level of convenience.