What happens to the automotive marketplace when an offshoot of the world's largest tech company starts rolling out alternatives to conventional car ownership? With the recent announcement of a major mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) initiative between Walmart and several other leading organizations, we could find out the answer to this question as soon as this upcoming weekend.
As Phil LeBeau of CNBC explains, Waymo (a spin-off of Google's "X" division) has inked a deal with Wal-Mart, AutoNation, Avis, DDR Corp., and Element Hotel to provide expanded access to Waymo's burgeoning driverless taxi service in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Waymo-enabled rides to Wal-Mart will be up and running as soon as Friday, July 27th, while routes that connect individuals to locations related to the other named organizations should go live in the coming weeks.
To help spur adoption of this new MaaS offering, Waymo and its partners also plan to bake special deals and incentives into this experience for those who join the early rider program.
Going a step further, this program also will serve to bolster Walmart's upstart grocery delivery service. In total, this retail giant hopes to leverage Waymo's driverless technology to support deliveries from over 800 store across the nation by year's end.
Naturally, there is still plenty of ground to cover for Waymo and its newest batch of driverless allies before they are ready to truly upend the traditional automotive industry. However, should this self-driving program prove to be a resounding success in Arizona, it's hard not to imagine a greater influx of MaaS competition sweeping across the nation - and potentially generating plenty of headaches for dealerships that already face a dwindling audience of conventional car buyers.
Want to catch the complete analysis from LeBeau and the editorial team over a CNBC's "Behind the Wheel" blog? Then go ahead and set aside a few minutes of your day to check out the full story over on CNBC by clicking the link found down below.