UPS and self-driving leader, Waymo, are partnering to test self-driving vans for package deliveries. Waymo is offering its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivan fleet to transport packages between Phoenix-based UPS stores and a sorting facility in Tempe. Trials will begin shortly and last several months.
The two companies have not disclosed any details about their financial arrangement or how many packages will be shipped. Deliveries will not be made directly to consumer homes at this time. Waymo will have human drivers in every vehicle in case something goes wrong while in transit.
The UPS-Waymo deal represents a direct counter to Amazon’s attempt to build a next-gen logistics network. FedEx is also experimenting with self-driving technology and delivery drones to increase operational efficiencies. It’s evident that the logistics space will transform significantly over the next decade thanks to bold partnerships between industry giants.
UPS Giving Waymo a Faster Path to Market
During the trial period, UPS will use Waymo’s minivans instead of its traditional UPS trucks. UPS’s advanced technologies group lead, Bala Ganesh, says that vans may sit idle at times between delivery runs. Consequently, he wanted to deploy UPS drivers for other uses and instead take advantage of Waymo’s existing fleet.
The partnership gives Waymo a chance to wade slowly into logistics, which is an easier endeavor than consumer transportation. Package deliveries don’t come with the ethical challenges of transporting humans. The strategic UPS-Waymo deal gives Waymo more opportunity to test and monetize its technology while the autonomous driving world continues to evolve.
Over the last several years, many self-driving companies have struggled to meet deadlines. The underlying technology is immensely complex, and the stakes are high. Regarded as the most advanced and capable company out there, Waymo, with UPS’s help, could actually deliver on what it’s promising.
From Pet Project to Key Subsidiary
Waymo started back in 2009 as Google’s self-driving project before anyone else was working on the technology. Waymo has since clocked over 10 million miles of driving in various driving conditions across diverse landscapes. With so much experience, Waymo’s cars are built to handle situations better than human drivers, which is the ultimate self-driving goal.
Waymo aims to turn driving into a much safer and enjoyable experience overall. The company’s vehicles use lasers, sensors, and software to evaluate surrounding environments constantly. The cars understand how certain types of objects move and can predict the possible paths that they will take.
For example, Waymo’s technology knows the difference between a walking pedestrian, road cyclist, and a runaway dog. It can respond appropriately depending on how those entities all react to one another.
Waymo’s Bright Future
Today, Waymo is expanding in Phoenix with its Waymo One initiative. Area residents can hail self-driving cars for routine trips using an app. Looking ahead, the company aims to bring fully electric, self-driving vehicles to market and will also expand into the trucking sector.
Tasha Keeney of the investment firm Ark Invest is optimistic about Waymo’s future. “Waymo provides a beacon of autonomous progress and capability. They show that technological progress is possible.”
Stay tuned for more intel on how the partnership between Waymo and UPS evolves. We’re hopeful the trial will be a big win for both self-driving technology and next-gen logistics projects.