BENTONVILLE, Ark.—Walmart will start a pilot program for autonomous delivery vehicles in its hometown, the Arkansas Democratic Gazette reports. The test will happen on a 1.8-mile section of a five-lane thoroughfare that sees 38,000 cars each day.
The company supported a bill that would allow it to conduct such tests in Arkansas. “We’ve been testing for about a year in Arizona, so we’re excited whenever the legislation passed here in Arkansas that could bring this work here and job creation,” said Rachel Griffin, a senior manager with Walmart’s autonomous transportation team.
The program will run 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with the vehicles conducting five to nine trips daily. “We believe it is going to be something that’s safe and pretty simple. It will be a good example of how this program might be able to be expanded in Arkansas,” Bennet said of Walmart’s test.
Under the pilot program, the test won’t be completely autonomous, as the self-driving vehicles, which are retrofitted Ford Transit vans, will have human drivers. “[The route is] a fairly straight shot,” said Scott Bennett, director of the Arkansas Transportation Department. “There is a driver in the vehicle. They can take over the vehicle if needed. They’re operating on a set route with one alternative.”