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Bloomberg reports that Walmart is teaming up with autonomous vehicle company Waymo to trial a program that will “shuttle passengers in self-driving minivans to their retail stores.”

According to the story, “ It’s starting small, operating only in a suburban region of Phoenix, Arizona — where Waymo’s already running tests — and with only select passengers invited into the free program. Yet it’s a first hint of how Waymo plans to commercialize the nascent technology beyond ride-hailing.”

Waymo, a spinoff from Google, also is working with an area mall operators and a hotel company to test out its service.

The announcement of the trials indicate that it is only a matter of time before the service gets rolled out elsewhere in the country.

The Bloomberg story says that “the Waymo cars will only be doled out to Phoenix residents under its ‘early rider’ program, an experiment to warm consumers up to the novelty of self-driving cars. Waymo, which recently announced it had clocked 8 million autonomous miles, is widely considered the technical front-runner in the market. The company said it has more than 400 people participating in the program for now, and plans to begin a paid self-driving service in Phoenix by the end of 2018.”
KC's View:
I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of the self-driving car concept, but I do think that one way to make it acceptable is to expose people to it in small bites. It also says a lot, I think, about how willing Walmart is to try new things and establish itself as an innovator. This may not work, but it remains a statement with implications.