Skip to main content

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

Waymo and UPS delivery pilot program

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…
Waymo opens its fully driverless robotaxi service to more riders
waymo expands its driverless robotaxi service to more riders app

Waymo is opening up its fully driverless robotaxi service in Phoenix, Arizona, to more people as the driverless-car company continues to edge toward the wide-scale launch of autonomous ridesharing services.

Born out of the Google self-driving program that launched in 2009, Alphabet-owned Waymo has been testing its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivan and other vehicles in several states, with a 100-square-mile area in Phoenix seeing the most activity for testing and exploratory ridesharing services, the first of which launched at the end of 2018.

Read more
Lockdown couldn’t keep Waymo from testing self-driving cars … in a fake city
waymo self driving car testing

Self-driving car testing on public roads gets most of the headlines, but that was no longer an option for Waymo once the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States earlier this year. With shelter-in-place orders in effect, Waymo's testing program retreated behind the walls of a closed-course facility called Castle.

Castle is a 113-acre self-driving car testing facility built on the former Castle Air Force Base in Atwater, California, about two hours southeast of San Francisco. Since 2013, Waymo has been using the site to run prototype cars through the toughest scenarios engineers could come up with. This so-called "structured testing" has always been part of the process of developing autonomous cars, but during the worst of the pandemic, it became the main way to keep that process going. Waymo pulled its test cars off public roads in March (it also suspended operations at Castle for a time during that period), and resumed operations in Arizona in May.

Read more
Waymo and Volvo ink deal to build an all-new electric robo-taxi
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan Waymo Self-driving Test Fleet

Waymo has inked a deal with Volvo to develop an all-new driverless electric vehicle for ridsharing use, the two companies announced on Thursday, June 25.

The autonomous-vehicle company said it will work with Volvo and its global brands, Polestar and Lynk & Co., to integrate its self-driving Waymo Driver system into a new mobility-focused electric-vehicle platform geared toward ridesharing services.

Read more