UPS and self-driving technology company Waymo are running a pilot program for autonomous vehicle package pickup in the Phoenix area, using Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans to shuttle packages from UPS stores to a UPS sorting facility for processing.
“UPS and Waymo are exploring automated and autonomous technologies to enhance network operations,” said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer in a release. “Getting packages to our sortation facilities sooner and more frequently, while also creating an opportunity for later drop-offs for next-day service, can add enormous value for our customers.”
In the pilot, UPS and Waymo will explore how autonomous ground vehicles improve customer service and network efficiency, looking toward a joint long-term plan for collaboration. The vehicles will operate autonomously with a driver onboard to monitor operations.
“Waymo’s mission is to make it safe and easy for people and things to get where they’re going, and our partnership with UPS allows us to continue developing how our Waymo Driver can facilitate pickups,” said Tekedra Mawakana, Waymo’s chief operating officer in the release.
Waymo autonomous vehicles have driven more than 20 million miles on public roads and 10 billion miles in simulation. It’s the only such company to have an autonomous ride-hailing service.
Last year, UPS took a minority stake in TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company that runs two trips daily for UPS between Phoenix and El Paso, just after the two company began testing the service.
While Phoenix has been a hub of activity for self-driving/autonomous vehicle testing, with a few others underway, it remains to be seen how rapidly it can spread to other metro areas. Waymo, through work with logistics partners like UPS, has to figure out how to make its vehicles truly autonomous without human ride-alongs, if the model is to be viable and profitable.