Waymo Via Expands UPS Partnership to Include Autonomous Freight with Class 8 Trucks

Waymo Using, Alphabet’s self-driving arms delivery branch, is expanding its current collaboration with UPS to transport freight via autonomous Class 8 trucks. The six-week experiment began last week and will run until the end of the year in Texas, between Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, to assist the holiday season. Waymo is not saying how many trucks it will employ in the pilot, but it did say “several trucks” from its test fleet of Peterbilts with its fifth-generation Driver will be carrying products for UPS’s North American Air Freight (NAAF) subsidiary.

Two autonomous experts will be onboard the trucks, one with a commercial driver’s license and the other a software technician, who will supervise the activities of the driver when in autonomous mode. According to a representative for Waymo, the trucks will only be self-driving on highways and would revert to manual mode on city streets. Waymo began delivering smaller goods for UPS in its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Phoenix, Arizona, in January 2020. The original experiment, which ended earlier this year, intended to generate a long-term plan for how the firms may collaborate, and this current extension fulfills that purpose.

Waymo Via Expands UPS Partnership to Include Autonomous Freight with Class 8 Trucks

According to a Waymo representative, the initial UPS pilot “provided amazing learnings for us on things like summoning the car, loading/unloading boxes, and more.” “While this trucking pilot will not be tied to or have any local delivery components, we will be building on our first learnings and working with the UPS team for these trial runs.”

Waymo might represent a challenge to firms like TuSimple, which has been cooperating with UPS and its NAAF branch since 2019. TuSimple said during its Q3 earnings conference that it is expanding its autonomous freight network from Arizona to the east coast ahead of schedule to reach NAAF facilities in Orlando and Charlotte. TuSimple claims to hauled freight for NAAF for over 160,000 km. Waymo stated in a blog post announcing the cooperation, “These Class 8 trial runs will draw on all of the learnings and success we’ve had testing with UPS over the years, as well as our earlier Class 8 trial runs with other carriers across diverse verticals, like J.B. Hunt.”

Waymo and J.B. Hunt established a freight carrying cooperation in June along Houston-Fort Worth’s major Interstate 45. In a drive to ramp up autonomous trucking operations in Texas, Arizona, and California, the firm stated it would create a dedicated trucking center in Dallas and collaborate with Ryder for fleet management services a few months later. The Ryder partnership has already started at a temporary Dallas facility, but Waymo says the hub will not open until the first half of next year.