Walmart is putting AI-powered electric forklifts to work

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American retail giant Walmart has announced plans to put 19 autonomous electric forklifts to work at at four of its distribution centers as its experiments with a robotic workforce continue.

The biggest of the big box store companies said it will roll out 19 fully autonomous FoxBot Class 1 electric forklifts across four of its distribution centers. The project is being closely monitored by executives on both sides as part of a multi-year agreement with an eye towards a wider deployment of the robot forklifts coming in the future. This latest agreement follows the successful completion of a 16-month proof of concept at one facility.

“As the leader in autonomous trailer loading and unloading, Fox Robotics is pleased to deepen its relationship with Walmart as a key customer and investor,” said Marin Tchakarov, President and CEO of Fox Robotics. “We see this collaboration as the latest massive validation point of our technology and product capabilities, solidifying our leadership position in the warehouse shipping and receiving dock automation space.”

Fox Robotics autonomous forklift

Walmart says a number of its associates are currently being trained to operate the FoxBot, which is designed to handle a lot of the manual labor needed at the warehouse loading dock. You can see Walmart’s AI-driven electric forklifts in action in the FoxBot produced video (above).

Since Fox Robotics began selling its FoxBots in 2021, its installed base has autonomously processed more than 3 million pallet pulls for customers across North America.

Electrek’s Take

Walmart will deploy 19 Fox Robotics’ FoxBot autonomous forklifts across four distribution centers after the companies finalized a multi-year agreement; image by Fox Robotics.

It seems strange to be discussing robotic forklifts in the same week that the workers at VW’s Chattanooga, TN facility completed a historic vote to join the UAW. Then again, we’re a long way from the days when Sam Walton would come on TV to talk about Walmart being the place to shop for “Made in America” products, too. But, while it’s easy enough to dismiss Walmart’s AI efforts as anti-labor, the reality is far more complicated as a nationwide operator shortage continues to impact logistics and construction.

Here’s hoping that everyone who wants to work gets the chance to, then – and the robots can maybe take up the slack.

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