Autonomous Deliveries

I saw a news report this morning about Walmart. They use autonomous refrigerated box trucks to shuttle deliveries from their fulfillment center to the Walmart’s in the Bentonville, AR area without emergency drivers. The trucks drive the 7 or so miles round trip and stop only to reload and deliver to the stores. They previously had drivers on board that could intervene if necessary, but that phase is over. If this works, we all might see this in our areas. It’s only food now, but I would expect it to expand to all products eventually if it continues to work well. Are you ready for autonomous box trucks in your area?

Yes, I think it is ready for a greater rollout as long as issues with weather have been addressed. Bentonville doesn’t get much snow, from what I can find. I’d like to know the truck’s performance in rain and snow. I assume that has already been tested but I’ve seen no reports about success or failures. If anyone has links to articles or papers, please post them!

If that turns out OK, then go for it.

Here’s a quick two:

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Thanks but I was looking for an article on using autonomous vehicles in inclement weather. Rain, snow and the like. All these trials seem to be in the south with little mention of issues with bad weather.

I know that LIDAR is confused by rain or water in general. It thinks it is a solid. Vision systems don’t do well in snow for the same reason. Radar can sort of deal with snow and water…

Seems I found an article on work some MIT students are doing…

And UC San Diego too…

The last great hurdle maybe…

Walmart and their partner have been at this for a couple years or more. They must have encountered weather issues before they went driverless. Maybe we can find something on line if we keep looking.


Bentonville has pretty mild weather so maybe not an issue for Walmart in the south. Or maybe they don’t want to talk about it? Or maybe relief drivers are there to jump in for weather?

I found another article from 2016 with Ford claiming they had it solved with a different method. Ford used a mapping system that identified waypoints in the environment; curbs, light poles, buildings, ect, along the route and stored that info to be used as confirmation with GPS and the other sensors in the event of weather. They claimed 5 mm accuracy. A forklift guidance system called Seegrid used technology like that. Would not work for long-haul work but would work great for repetitive short haul delivery.

They get a lot of rain. Even during the driest period (winter), they get about three inches of rain per month and an annual average of 45 inches. Probably very little snow if any though. The state gave them a permit to operate autonomously after 18 months of testing.

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Something like that has a better chance of success b/c the travel route is always along the same path, and only 7 miles. The driving computer can quickly learn how to react to the various problems it might encounter. I can see how that could be successful. If the weather was really bad presumably they’d switch to using drivers or just wait until the weather cleared, like the airlines do. I wonder who is legally at fault in an accident where the software fails to make the necessary mitigations for the situation? Walmart? Arkansas? Nobody? Yet to be determined?

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Walmart and their contractor that supplied the trucks are at fault. They own and operate the vehicle.


“Creating maps of the soil beneath the road could be the secret to navigating streets blanketed in snow.”
seriously, this is interesting. would love to see one.(a map)