Waymo has partnered with Walmart and other businesses in the Phoenix, Ariz. area to expand tests of its self-driving cars. The 400 members of Wamyo’s “early riders” program can now take a self-driving car to and from the Walmart in Chandler, Ariz. when they purchase groceries from Walmart.com.
Those who go to Walmart in Waymo’s self-driving cars will even have their own parking spots. The tests will begin this week.
Waymo made several other partnerships based on feedback from its early riders program. Walmart is the biggest name on the parternship list, but other companies involved are set to make an impact as well:
- Shopping mall operator DDR will be offering free Waymo rides for those looking to avoid hot summer parking lots
- Element Hotel will give select guests access to Waymo vehicles to be shuttled around.
- Waymo will also loan self-driving cars to certain AutoNation repair center and Avis Budget Group customers in the area.
“We are expanding our existing partnerships with AutoNation and Avis Budget Group. AutoNation, who already helps Waymo service and maintain our vehicles in Phoenix, is now making it possible for their customers to ride with Waymo technology; while customers are having their personal vehicles serviced, AutoNation will now offer them a Waymo, rather than a loaner car, to get around.
“Avis Budget Group, who makes sure our vehicles are charged, refueled, and presentable for riders, will also soon provide Waymos as a last mile solution for Avis customers in Phoenix to help them pick up or drop off their rental cars, beginning with their two Chandler locations. Avis and AutoNation are ideal partners, providing different and complementary support and maintenance services to our growing fleet of self-driving cars in Phoenix over the past year and ensuring they are always ready to pick up a rider,” Waymo said in today’s statement.
Waymo looks beyond ride-hailing
Clearly, Waymo wants to be more than a taxi service; these early partnerships are a first glimpse into what broader commercialization might look like for Waymo self-driving cars. Partnering with company’s with an established national network of locations, like Walmart, will help Waymo clear expansion hurdles when the time comes. In its statement, Waymo made it clear that it plans for this to be more than just a summer fling.
“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. 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,” Waymo said.
“Our personal shoppers get to work meticulously picking customers’ orders based on their pickup times. Waymo does the rest,” Walmart vice president Tom Ward wrote in a blog. “They transport customers to and from pickup, and all the while, those customers can text, nap, work… you name it!”
Waymo is not willing to completely tip its hand, though. Several factors remain unknown. This partnership is happening only one year after the launch of the early rider program, but will a new expansion follow the same time frame? The aforementioned partner company’s are paying for Waymo’s service, but have declined to report on financial terms. And why not have Waymo self-driving cars simply deliver goods to customer’s homes, like Nuro’s local good’s transportation solution?