San Francisco– Taking its autonomous vehicle pilot with a startup called Gatik to the next level, retail giant Walmart is now planning to start deliveries with driverless truck in the US state Arkansas starting next year.

“This achievement marks a new milestone that signifies the first ever driverless operation carried out on the supply chain middle mile for both Gatik and Walmart,” Tom Ward, Senior Vice President of Customer Product, Walmart US, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The move comes after Walmart last year began an autonomous vehicle pilot with Gatik to move customer orders on a two-mile route between a dark store — a store that stocks items for fulfillment but isn’t open to the public — and a neighborhood market in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The pilot has since then registered over 70,000 operational miles in autonomous mode with a safety driver.

“Now, we’re taking the next step forward: Gatik’s multi-temperature Autonomous Box Trucks will operate this route driverless in the state of Arkansas,” Ward said.

“When we begin incorporating driverless Box Trucks into the Bentonville operation next year, the pilot will continue as it always has,” he added.

Walmart said it is also expanding its pilot with Gatik to a second location to test an even longer delivery route and a second use case — delivering items from a supercentre to a Walmart pickup point, a designated location where customers can conveniently pick up their orders.

The operation will begin early next year on a 20-mile route between New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana, the company said.

Several other companies around the world are working towards making use of autonomous vehicles.

E-commerce giant Amazon in September said it is creating a new team focused on driverless delivery in the UK.

The new team at the e-commerce giant’s Cambridge development centre will work on Amazon Scout, the company’s fully-electric autonomous delivery service.

Amazon Scout devices are the size of a small cooler and roll along pavements at a walking pace

Walmart in September announced testing drone delivery of grocery and household essential items in a bid to take on Amazon.

Walmart said it has partnered with Israel-based drone delivery company Flytrex to launch the pilot in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Amazon had earlier said that it had received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US for drone delivery of packages. (IANS)