Correspondent Dale Buss spoke to Tom Ward, 36, senior vice president of Walmart, last mile, about the company’s AV strategy. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: Walmart has been a pioneer in retail distribution and logistics, and this has 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 primarily focused on emerging technologies, on what’s going on in the space that fundamentally allows you to serve the customer better. To think about what busy families need and connect with our overall mission. It’s all about speed, convenience, and of course, value for money.
Brick-and-mortar stores can be a big advantage and a drag in some respects. How important is autonomous delivery in your ongoing battle with Amazon and other e-merchants?
Ninety percent of America is within 10 miles of a Walmart. It was super important as a physical and marketable location. But more and more, the store has evolved into a true digital and omnichannel asset. The store then becomes a purchasing center for customers for pickup and delivery along with a change report and opportunity to [try] distribution technologies for the store and the customer.
For example, we have partnered with several drone companies, all of them different, which allows us to truly use the store and the asset as an advanced deployment base to use new technologies and connect them to customer needs.