Walmart Testing Autonomous Grocery Delivery in Houston

Walmart is testing autonomous grocery delivery in Houston with robotics partner Nuro to a select group of shoppers that opt into the pilot program, the company announced.

“By continuing to test autonomous vehicle capabilities, we’re better able to understand the path self-driving technology can take us down the road,” said Tom Ward, SVP of digital operations for Walmart U.S., in a blog post.

The test will involve Nuro’s R2 robotic vehicle as well as some autonomous Toyota Priuses, also powered by Nuro’s technology, according to Tech Crunch. The R2’s two compartments can hold up to six grocery bags each.

“Today, we’re announcing a new pilot with autonomous vehicle company, Nuro,” Ward said. “Nuro’s vision of using robotics to improve lives runs parallel with Walmart’s mission of helping customers live better. Through the Houston-based pilot, Walmart aims to develop, refine and continue learning how to offer the best end-to-end customer experience.”

He added that Walmart’s e-grocery footprint has grown to nearly 3,100 pickup locations and delivery from over 1,600 stores, using more than 50,000 personal shoppers.

In March of this year, Kroger ended its own autonomous grocery delivery pilot in Scottsdale, AZ, using Nuro to make more than 2,000 unmanned deliveries. Walmart also used startup Udelv for another autonomous test of grocery delivery in the aptly named Surprise, AZ, in January.

This latest news comes shortly after Walmart shut down same-day delivery of fresh grocery items in New York from its Jet.com subsidiary last month, after the service stumbled badly and proved too expensive.

Meanwhile the e-grocery wars continue unabated, as major players battle it out for a still small sliver of overall grocery spending. In October, for just one example, Amazon hit back at Walmart’s new Delivery Unlimited program, making delivery from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods free for Prime members by eliminating the $14.99 per month charge on orders of at least $35.

That same month, e-grocery ordering and delivery platform Mercato unveiled a subscription offering providing unlimited free same-day deliveries for members in 25 states, a direct shot at the Amazon Fresh program and other competitors.