By Daniella Genovese


Walmart announced Tuesday that it will begin using fully driverless trucks in Arkansas next year as it expands its autonomous vehicle pilot program with Gatik.

For the first time, Gatik’s multi-temperature autonomous box trucks will move customer orders on a 2-mile route between a dark store and a neighborhood market in Bentonville without the supervision of a safety driver, according to Tom Ward, Walmart senior vice president of customer products.

A dark store stocks items for fulfillment but isn’t open to the public.

The move “signifies the first ever driverless operation carried out on the supply chain middle mile for both Gatik and Walmart,” Ward said in a statement.

The development comes nearly a year after Walmart and Gatik launched an autonomous vehicle pilot to fulfill orders. Over the past year, the company says it has tested the multi-temperature trucks on a smaller scale in Bentonville in order to see how they may be able to transfer customer orders from a dark store to a live store or one that is open to the public.

The company has driven more than 70,000 operational miles in autonomous mode with a safety driver, Ward said.

Starting next year, the company also plans to test its self-driving box trucks on an extended 20-mile route between New Orleans and Metairie, La.

The trucks will initially operate with a safety driver and deliver items from a Supercenter to a Walmart pickup point where customers can pick up their orders. 

Walmart says its trials with Gatik are “just two of many use cases we’re testing with autonomous vehicles.”

Just last month, the company announced it also joined forces with self-driving car company Cruise to test autonomous grocery delivery in Arizona.