UPS Adds Waymo's Autonomous Class 8 Trucks for Deliveries in Texas

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【Summary】The two companies are expanding their partnership to include deliveries being made with the self-driving company’s Class 8 between Dallas and Houston.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Dec 28, 2021 5:00 PM PT
UPS Adds Waymo's Autonomous Class 8 Trucks for Deliveries in Texas

Waymo and UPS have been working together to test autonomous delivery vans for a few years. While autonomous cars for regular consumers are in the spotlight for self-driving technology, there's been a large push for delivery vehicles that can drive themselves, even if it's for a small portion of the route. In an expansion to their partnership that's roughly two years old, UPS will be adding Waymo's autonomous Class 8 trucks to its delivery fleet in Texas.

Waymo, UPS Extend Partnership

Previously, UPS was only using Waymo's self-driving minivans for local deliveries. With the addition of Class 8 semi-trucks, UPS will be tackling long-distance deliveries in Texas. The two companies will be hauling cargo between facilities in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. During the trips, Waymo and UPS will be gathering data and paying close attention to the efficiency and safety of the semi-trucks. Texas is the primary location for the tests, as Waymo has plans to build a nine-acre hub to test its autonomous semi-trucks in the state.

The test period will span six weeks and officially started last week. Waymo and UPS will test the autonomous Class 8 trucks until the end of the year. This will also help UPS deliver freight during the busy holiday season. Waymo didn't say how many trucks UPS will be usde for the pilot program, but stated that "multiple trucks" from its test fleet of Peterbilt semi-trucks have its latest fifth-gen Driver system.

New Trial Is A Win-Win

While the trucks are capable of handling a lot of driving tasks on the highway, the semi-trucks will have two autonomous specialists onboard to keep an eye on the vehicle. One will have a commercial driver's license, while the other will be a software technician. The trucks will operate in their autonomous mode on the highway and will switch back to being operated by a human driver for surface streets.

The new pilot program involving Waymo's Class 8 semis is a natural progression for the two companies. The first UPS pilot program that involved Waymo's driverless minivans "brought incredible learnings for us on things like hailing the vehicle, loading/unloading parcels and more," said a Waymo spokesperson. The program will definitely help Waymo in its goal to come out with a commercial freight hauling business that uses autonomous vehicles.

"These Class 8 trial runs will build on all of the learnings and success we've had testing with UPS over the years, as well as our previous Class 8 trial runs with other carriers across unique verticals, including J.B. Hunt," Waymo wrote in a blog post announcing the partnership.

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