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Walmart to test driverless grocery delivery in 2020, starting in Houston

Julia La Roche

Walmart (WMT) will up the stakes in the grocery wars in 2020, by using driverless technology to deliver customers' orders, the company announced on Tuesday. 

In 2020, the autonomous delivery vehicles will begin a pilot program, carrying delivery orders for select customers in Houston who opt-in to the offering.  

To spearhead the initiative, the retail giant announced a partnership with Mountain View, California-based robotics company Nuro, to test its custom-built R2 electric vehicles that operate without passengers. The program will also use Toyota Priuses powered by Nuro's self-driving software and hardware. 

In recent years, Walmart has focused on expanding its popular Grocery Pickup and Delivery Service — in the process stiffening its challenge to Amazon (AMZN). Just recently, the company’s Whole Foods and Fresh brands started offering free delivery, in an effort to boost grocery sales.

By year-end, Walmart will offer online grocery pickup in 3,100 locations with delivery across 1,600 stores. Walmart also now employs 50,000 personal shoppers for its online grocery business. 

"Our unparalleled size and scale has allowed us to steer grocery delivery to the front doors of millions of families – and design a roadmap for the future of the industry," Tom Ward, Walmart’s SVP of digital operations, wrote in a blog post. 

He added that technology is playing an essential role in its grocery delivery capability. 

"Along the way, we've been test driving a number of different options for getting groceries from our stores to our customers' front doors through self-driving technology,” Ward wrote. 

“We believe this technology is a natural extension of our Grocery Pickup and Delivery service, and our goal of making every day a little easier for customers," he added.

Walmart also recently expanded its unlimited delivery grocery membership offering "Delivery Unlimited" to 1,400 locations and debuted InHome Delivery in three U.S. cities covering a customer base of more than 1 million.

Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on