Correspondent Dale Buss talked with Tom Ward, 36, Walmart senior vice president, last mile, about the company’s AV strategy. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: Walmart was a pioneer in retail distribution and logistics, and it created huge competitive advantages for the company for decades. Are you approaching autonomous delivery in the same strategic way?
A: Yes, I think so. We’re basically focused on what technologies are emerging, what things are happening in the space that allow you fundamentally to better serve the customer. To think about what busy families need and connect to our overall mission. It’s about speed, about convenience, and obviously about great prices.
Brick-and-mortar stores can be a big advantage and a drag in some ways. What is the importance of autonomous delivery in your ongoing battle with Amazon and other e-tailers?
Ninety percent of America is within 10 miles of a Walmart. It was super important as a physical, shoppable location. But increasingly, the store has evolved into being a true digital, omnichannel asset. The store then becomes a shoppable fulfillment center for customers for pickup and delivery as well as a statement of change and an opportunity to [try] distribution technologies for the store and the customer.
For example, we’ve partnered with several drone companies, all different, allowing us to truly utilize the store and asset as a forward-deployed base to use new technologies and connect them to what customers need.