Skip to main content

Brown goes autonomous: Waymo and UPS partner on package-delivery pilot

Waymo and UPS delivery pilot program
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Waymo’s fleet of prototype self-driving cars will soon carry packages in addition to transporting people. Waymo and UPS are partnering on a pilot package-delivery program in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The pilot program will start this quarter, according to a Waymo blog post.

The pilot program will use the same Chrysler Pacifica minivans as the Waymo One ridesharing service, which also operates in the Phoenix metro area. The minivans will pick up packages at UPS Stores around Phoenix, and take them to a UPS hub in nearby Tempe, Arizona, according to Waymo. Cars will drive autonomously, but with a trained human operator on board at all times in case of problems, Waymo said.

Waymo wants to use the UPS partnership to demonstrate the versatility of its autonomous driving system, which the company refers to as the “Waymo Driver.” Waymo is marketing the system to other companies, rather than building complete cars itself.

While Chrysler has provided Pacifica minivans for use as test vehicles, and Jaguar has done the same with the I-Pace electric SUV, no company has said it will buy Waymo’s tech outright. Regarding increased collaboration with UPS, Waymo would only say that the two companies are working together “with the goal of jointly developing a long-term plan.”

Waymo isn’t the only company that wants to use self-driving cars as delivery vehicles. Ford has run multiple pilot programs with Domino’s, Postmates, and Walmart, while General Motors’ Cruise division has inked a deal to deliver food for DoorDash. Startup Nuro has developed a purpose-built autonomous delivery vehicle, which is currently ferrying groceries from Kroger supermarkets to customers in Arizona and Texas, as well as from Walmart stores in the Houston metro area. Toyota has discussed building an autonomous vehicle called the e-Palette that will be able to switch between carrying passengers and cargo.

Given the public’s ambivalence toward self-driving cars, delivery services may be a more realistic option for the numerous companies developing the tech. Delivery services put cars on the road, accruing the promised safety benefits and, theoretically, proving that the tech works — all without having to convince anyone to ride in the autonomous cars.

Editors' Recommendations

Stephen Edelstein
Stephen is a freelance automotive journalist covering all things cars. He likes anything with four wheels, from classic cars…
Watch San Franciscans take a ride in Waymo’s self-driving car
Waymo Jaguar I-Pace

Waymo is inviting San Francisco residents to hop inside its self-driving vehicles for a drive around the city.

Welcoming our first riders in San Francisco

Read more
Waymo ditches the term ‘self-driving’ in apparent dig at Tesla
waymo takes its self driving cars to florida for testing in heavy rain

Autonomous car company Waymo says it will stop using the term “self-driving” in a move that many will see as a swipe at Tesla.

Alphabet-owned Waymo said that starting this year it will refer to its driving technology as “fully autonomous.”

Read more
Waymo’s autonomous cars steer clear of any potential election unrest
Waymo fake city test

Waymo has taken its autonomous cars off the streets of San Francisco and placed them in a secure location to ensure they don’t get caught up in any election-related unrest that may occur.

Transdev, Waymo’s fleet operations vendor, told The Verge that the company had decided to temporarily pause testing of its self-driving vehicles until Thursday.

Read more