Could retailers push the AV space?

It's quite likely that there will be many practical applications for autonomous vehicles in the near future, so it should come as little surprise that a variety of companies in a wide range of industries are pursuing what the technology could mean for them. These days, that includes a number of the biggest names in retail.

For example, Walmart — the world's largest retail company — recently wrapped up an AV pilot with a tech company that transported items between stores two miles apart in Alabama, all with a human safety driver in the vehicle. All told, the program saw these vehicles hit more than 70,000 real-world miles driven and no accidents to report. As such, the company is taking the next step with its automated vehicles, going completely driver-free along the route.

Driverless trucks could come soon.Driverless trucks could come soon.

A closer look
While the automated box trucks will keep driving the same route, Walmart and the AV developer will collect even more data than they did previously on how these vehicles operate, the company said. Moreover, it will expand the pilot program to drive a second route, this time in Louisiana, that's 10 times longer than the first. The idea is that, since the vast majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store location, it could become easier to transport items from one retail center to another, or to a drop-off point where ordered items can be picked up with greater ease and convenience.

Other efforts
The Walmart pilot program is expanding at the same time as its next-largest competitor, the e-commerce titan Amazon, is also getting into the game, according to The New York Times. Earlier this year, the company purchased the AV tech developer Zoox for $1.2 billion, and is already working toward integrating its vehicles into real-world driving situations. Indeed, the company is now pushing out a new, fully electric driverless vehicle that could have a number of practical applications, not the least of which is deploying a seemingly endless supply of self-driving taxis.

With more companies in a variety of sectors seeing the benefit of going driverless, it should come as little surprise that the technology is approaching large-scale viability at an ever-increasing rate.

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