Walmart's Massive Self-Driving Investment Is A Big Deal

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The GM-backed Cruise autonomous driving division raises $2.75 billion.

Only a few days following the announcement of Dubai becoming the first non-US city to strike a deal with GM's Cruise autonomous driving unit that'll see robotaxis coming to one of the world's hottest tourist destinations starting in 2023, the company is back with another big reveal. Actually, the news comes from Walmart US CEO John Furner. Why? Because the retail giant is part of the startup's latest fundraising round that's brought in another $2.75 billion. San Francisco-based Cruise is now valued at over $30 billion. In 2019, it was worth $19 billion.

"Today we're taking the next step in our work with autonomous vehicles by making an investment in Cruise," Furner said in a blog post. "The investment will aid our work toward developing a last mile delivery ecosystem that's fast, low-cost and scalable."

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Walmart and Cruise are not exactly strangers; the two began working together last November to develop a delivery pilot in Scottsdale, Arizona. Like Amazon and its own $700 million investment in Rivian that will result in a fleet of all-electric delivery vans (among other things), Walmart understands consumers are quickly shifting towards home deliveries instead of physically visiting a store. Laying the groundwork now for this new reality is essential. It's also aware any future delivery system(s) must be eco-friendly. By 2040, its entire operations will be zero emissions.

Cruise initially started off developing a heavily modified version of the Chevrolet Bolt EV that lacked a steering wheel. This later became a larger testing fleet and, in January 2020, the Cruise Origin all-electric, self-driving people hauler debuted.

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Walmart's testing of home grocery deliveries from a single store in Scottsdale is still in the early stages and isn't expected to expand to additional cities at this time. It should also be noted Walmart is continuing to conduct self-driving vehicle tests with Google's Waymo, one of Cruise's most significant rivals. Walmart has clearly realized that investing in multiple autonomous driving companies is in its best long-term interests.

So, does this mean the death of driving is near? No, but it highlights the fact us consumers prefer ordering products online and ship them directly to our homes instead of driving to pick them up.

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