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

Waymo Via, the delivery division of Alphabet’s autonomous arm, is expanding its existing partnership with UPS to transport freight via Class 8 autonomous trucks. The six-week pilot, which started last week and will run until at the end of the year to support the holiday season, takes place in Texas between Houston and Dallas-Forth Worth.

Waymo does not share the specific number of trucks it will use for the pilot, but has said that “several trucks” from its Peterbilt test fleet that are fitted with its fifth generation driver will deliver cargo for air freight. North American UPS (NAAF unit). The trucks will have two autonomous specialists on board – a driver with a commercial driver’s license and a software technician – who will monitor the driver’s operations in autonomous mode. The trucks will only run on freeways and revert to manual mode for the surface portions of streets, a Waymo spokesperson told TechCrunch.

In January 2020, Waymo began delivering smaller packages for UPS in its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Phoenix, Arizona. The goal of this initial pilot, which ended earlier this year, was to develop a long-term plan for how businesses can work together, so that this latest expansion makes that intention a reality.

The first UPS pilot “gave us incredible lessons on things like hailing the vehicle, loading / unloading packages and more,” said a spokesperson for Waymo. “While this trucking pilot is not tied to our local delivery pilots or has no local delivery components, we will build on our early learnings and work with the UPS team for these trials. “

If the trucking pilot goes well, Waymo could pose a threat to companies like TuSimple who have partnered with UPS and its NAAF division since 2019. On TuSimple’s third quarter earnings call, the AV startup said that it was expanding its autonomous freight network from Arizona to the east ahead of schedule to be able to reach the NAAF terminals in Orlando and Charlotte. TuSimple says it has already completed 160,000 miles of freight transport for NAAF.

“These Class 8 trials will build on all the learnings and success we’ve tested with UPS over the years, as well as our previous Class 8 trials with other carriers in unique verticals, including JB Hunt, “Waymo wrote in a blog post announcing the partnership.

In June, Waymo announced a freight forwarding partnership with JB Hunt along the busy Interstate 45 between Houston and Forth Worth. A few months later, the company announced that it would build a dedicated trucking center in Dallas and partner with Ryder for fleet management services with the goal of scaling up autonomous trucking operations in Texas, Arizona and in California. The Ryder relationship has already started at a temporary facility in Dallas, but the hub won’t open until the first half of next year, Waymo said.

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