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story.lead_photo.caption Walmart truck and trailer.

Walmart Inc. is expanding a driverless delivery vehicle test in Bentonville to the New Orleans area, the company said Tuesday.

Autonomous vehicle maker Gatik, which Walmart is working with in the Bentonville program, will start early next year to run a 20-mile route in New Orleans and Metairie, La.

The Louisiana pilot will operate with a safety driver in the vehicle as it has in Bentonville, said Tom Ward, senior vice president of consumer product for Walmart U.S.

However, Ward also said in a news release that after safely driving more than 70,000 miles in Bentonville, Gatik has been authorized to operate the delivery vans in Arkansas without a safety driver.

"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," Ward said.

The two trials with Gatik are among many tests Walmart is conducting with autonomous vehicles, Ward said.

The Bentonville pilot program started last year. Gatik's vehicles run a 1.8-mile circuit between a Neighborhood Market and a Walmart pickup and fulfillment center.

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