Waymo, Google’s autonomous-vehicle spinoff, wants to help you run your errands.
The company said on Wednesday that it had teamed up with five companies, including Walmart, Avis and AutoNation, to offer rides in its self-driving cars in the Phoenix area.
The partnerships hint at Waymo’s plans for fusing its technology into people’s everyday lives by transporting them between their homes and stores, restaurants or other nearby destinations.
The company’s arrangement with Walmart will allow shoppers who buy groceries online to summon a Waymo vehicle to shuttle them to a store to pick up their orders.
The new service, which is set to begin this week, is Walmart’s latest move in an intensifying competition with Amazon to dominate the grocery sector, after its creation of a personal shopper program and the expansion of its online grocery delivery service.
Walmart has also explored the use of self-driving technology to support its vast distribution network, pre-ordering 15 autonomous Tesla trucks last year for its operations in the United States and Canada.
AutoNation, which already helps Waymo service its cars, will offer customers having work done at one of its dealerships rides in one of the autonomous vehicles, rather than in the standard loaner car. Avis will send Waymo cars to pick up and drop off customers renting vehicles from its two locations in Chandler, near Phoenix.
DDR, which owns the Ahwatukee Foothills Towne Center shopping complex in Phoenix, will use Waymo cars to help shoppers and people going out to eat avoid having to find empty spaces in crowded parking lots. And business travelers and other guests at the Element Hotel in Chandler can use the vehicles for local trips.
Waymo, which has tested its autonomous technology for years across millions of miles, is limiting the Phoenix program to 400 people who participated in an early-rider trial the company began locally last year.
Participants in the trial used an app to summon Waymo cars, which could be used to go anywhere in the area: to work, to happy-hour get-togethers, to the gym. Waymo said it had analyzed data from the trips and had found that many users were calling the cars to shop and run errands.
The company said it planned to eventually expand the partnerships in other cities.
Waymo agreed in May to buy up to 62,000 minivans from Fiat Chrysler for use in its ride-hailing operations, after announcing in March that it would buy as many as 20,000 compact cars for the service from Jaguar Land Rover.
Follow Tiffany Hsu on Twitter: @tiffkhsu.
Michael Corkery contributed reporting.
Orignially published in NYT.