Walmart will chauffeur shoppers in self-driving Waymo cars

Every major tech and car company has self-driving cars on their mind. Now Walmart does too.

The world’s largest retailer announced Wednesday a pilot with Waymo, the self-driving division of Google’s parent company, to offer shoppers a free rides in autonomous cars to its stores.

The pilot program, which for now only applies to people picking up groceries, kicks off later this week in Chandler, Arizona.

After a customer places an order at, he or she will be picked up by a Waymo van at their home. The vehicle will drive to the Walmart and wait outside until an employee brings out the customer’s groceries. Walmart will designate Waymo parking spots at its store in Chandler.

It also comes with a deal on groceries, but Walmart declined to elaborate on the details.

Although Waymo supplies the cars, Walmart picks up the tab. Exact financial terms have not been revealed.

The concept aims to get more shoppers to its stores. “We’re always thinking of ways we can serve our customers now and into the future,” Tom Ward, vice president of e-commerce operations at Walmart, said in a blog post. “The purpose of all of this: to learn. While giving customers a unique experience with amazing technology, we’re learning how we can make Walmart online grocery pickup even more convenient.”

But the partnership offers a greater peek into the future of transportation. Autonomous vehicles are expected to dramatically reduce the cost of transportation. Experts say this will likely lead to businesses paying for self-driving cars to bring customers to them.

It’s also the latest example of Walmart and Google working closer together as both compete with Amazon. The e-commerce giant’s Prime Now service offers free two-hour delivery on everyday items in certain cities.

Spokespeople for Walmart and Waymo declined to comment on the length of the pilot program and if it will roll out to other cities.

However, Walmart isn’t the only Phoenix-area place spot where Waymo riders can get free trips. On Wednesday, a local shopping center announced it will pay for customers’ rides in Waymo’s vans to and from its location. Meanwhile, Phoenix residents who have their cars serviced at AutoNation will get the option to ride in a Waymo self-driving car, rather than using a loaner vehicle.

Arizona has emerged as an early adopter of self-driving cars, thanks largely to its lawmakers welcoming the technology. That, and the sunny weather makes it more pleasant for pilot programs, too.