Waymo strikes deals with Walmart, others to boost access to self-driving cars

Key Points
  • Waymo has struck deals with several companies to expand access to its self-driving cars.
  • Some of those companies include Walmart, Autonation and Avis.
  • The Waymo rides to certain Walmarts in Arizona will start later this week, while the other ride offers will begin over the course of the next several weeks.
Waymo unveils a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. on January 8, 2017.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Waymo, the Alphabet company that spun out of Google's former self-driving car division, is partnering with some of the country's largest companies to expand how many people have access to its self-driving vehicles.

In partnerships with five companies, including Walmart, Autonation and Avis, Waymo autonomous vehicles will pick up customers and drive them to various locations in the Phoenix area. In some cases, customers will be offered savings or deals in order to be shuttled around in Waymo vehicles.

“We’ve tailored our partnerships to meet the top rider needs; in fact, the partnerships below represent eight of the top ten activities our riders do when they get in a Waymo,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the partnerships.

Here are the company specific rides Waymo will be providing customers:

  • Walmart: Customers will be offered savings to place orders for groceries on As the orders are being prepared at a local store in the Phoenix area, Waymo vehicles will transport customers to and from Walmart to pick up their groceries.
  • AutoNation: As customers are having vehicles serviced at AutoNation dealerships, they will be offered rides in a Waymo, rather than a loaner car.
  • Avis: Waymo vehicles will drop off and pick up rental car customers at two locations in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler.
  • DDR Corp.: The real estate investment trust, which owns shopping centers like the Ahwatukee Foothills Towne Center in Chandler, Arizona, will offer shoppers and diners rides in Waymo self-driving vehicles.
  • Element Hotel: Select guests of the hotel in Chandler will have access to Waymo vehicles to use on local trips.

The Waymo rides to certain Walmarts in Arizona will start later this week while the other ride offers will begin over the course of the next several weeks.

Initially, the deals will be offered to about 400 people in the Phoenix area who are part of Waymo’s early rider test program and will then be expanded to include others not yet in the program. Some or all of the cost of the rides will be picked up by the companies partnering with Waymo.

Walmart plans to use the service specifically to fulfill online grocery orders, as it’s in the process of bringing grocery delivery to 800 stores by year's end. The retailer will use its personal shoppers will get items to Waymo vehicles to be delivered from there.

Tom Ward, vice president of Walmart’s e-commerce operations, said the company is excited to see “what this pilot and the future hold” before plotting out expansion plans. He said the purpose of the pilot test with Waymo is “to learn” and also to give shoppers “a unique experience with amazing technology.”

It remains to be seen how much Waymo will charge riders when it launches its autonomous ride share service in Arizona later this year.

— CNBC's Lauren Thomas contributed to this reporting.