Forward-looking: UPS and Waymo have announced a partnership that allows UPS to dip its toes into autonomous deliveries. The company thinks that Waymo's driverless tech can transform how it delivers packages. While UPS isn't the only company looking to leverage self-driving cars, this partnership is yet another stepping stone to a future where both packages and people can be transported without a driver.
Waymo, the Google subsidiary best known for its self-driving cars, is teaming up with UPS for a limited package delivery pilot program. The program involves Waymo's Chrysler Pacifica minivans delivering packages from UPS stores to sorting facilities within Phoenix, AZ. The minivans will not deliver to people.
“UPS and Waymo are exploring automated and autonomous technologies to enhance network operations,” said Scott Price, UPS chief strategy and transformation officer. “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.”
Waymo already operates a Level 4 autonomous driving fleet in Phoenix that is completely driver-less. However, the vans that are shuttling packages between UPS locations will still have a safety driver. UPS says the primary goal is to "explore how autonomous ground vehicles improve customer service and network efficiency". That said, the company did not rule out any long term partnership if the pilot goes well.
The partnership isn't exclusive to UPS, however.
Waymo already has a fleet of autonomous semi-trucks for freight delivery and regularly makes deliveries for auto retailer AutoNation. Furthermore, both UPS and the United States Postal Services piloted autonomous mail trucks last year via self-driving startup TuSimple.
Autonomous cars seem to be getting better and more sophisticated. Just a few days ago, we reported that Uber is bringing its self-driving cars to Washington, D.C. Although, unlike other cities deployments, Uber's cars in D.C. will be manually driven.
The slower, methodical approach is probably better considering the controversy over Uber allegedly using Waymo's technology. Regardless, a future in which packages and people are transported without a driver is coming fast.