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Waymo partners with Walmart to shuttle customers in self-driving cars

The hubcap of a Jaguar I-Pace with Waymo technology is seen during an event in New York. (Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg News)
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Alphabet’s Waymo announced Wednesday that it will begin a pilot program with Walmart to shuttle customers to and from stores to pick up their groceries. The new initiative is part of partnerships with companies to offer customers self-driving cars to run errands and shop.

Customers in Phoenix who order groceries on will receive savings on their goods, and as their orders are put together at the store, autonomous Waymo vehicles will take customers to and from Walmart.

Waymo will also partner with AutoNation, Avis, DDR Corp. and Element Hotel, offering their self-driving cars to customers who do business with those companies.

AutoNation will lend customers a Waymo vehicle while their personal cars are serviced, instead of a typical “loaner.” Avis’s two locations in Chandler, Ariz., will offer customers a Waymo when they pick up and return their rental cars. Guests of Element Hotel can use the self-driving cars during their stays. And customers planning a trip to a local DDR shopping center can ride in a Waymo to avoid parking, the company said.

Waymo, formerly Google’s self-driving car project, is now a subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

“We’ve tailored our partnerships to meet the top rider needs,” Waymo said in a blog post. “While these are Metro Phoenix-specific partnerships today, these businesses are national and what we learn from these programs will give us a network of partners when we launch in new cities down the road.”

The partnership announcements arrive as leading technology companies and automakers, including GM and Tesla, are racing to develop the market for fully autonomous cars. Some of the ambitious, new services automakers hope to launch include car sharing networks and ride-hailing apps powered by autonomous vehicles.