Dec 20, 2021

Your Holiday Gifts Could Be Shipped by Robot Semi, Courtesy of UPS and Waymo

Posted by in categories: economics, robotics/AI, transportation

Between a supply chain full of holes, labor shortages across various sectors of the economy, and rising inflation, it’s shaping up to be a somewhat chaotic holiday season. Technology can’t fix all of these problems—or even most of them—but it can help get holiday shipments from point A to point B faster, cheaper, and without as many humans involved. Waymo’s partnership with UPS could mean some of your holiday gifts will be spending time in an autonomous truck on their way to you.

Waymo (which started out as the Google Self-Driving Car Project in 2009 and is still held by Alphabet, but raised $2.5 billion in its first outside funding round in March of 2020) first announced a partnership with UPS in January 2020, in which Waymo Driver was used to help move packages between UPS stores in Phoenix and the UPS hub in Tempe. Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans drove autonomously, but trained operators were on board to monitor the vehicles.

Last week the two companies announced an expansion of their existing partnership, saying they’ll start autonomous trial runs using Class 8 trucks equipped with the fifth-generation Waymo Driver. They’ll do deliveries for UPS’s North American Air Freight unit between facilities in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. Waymo’s initial route for its driverless cargo shipments also ran between Houston and Fort Worth, which the company said is one of the most highly utilized freight corridors in the country. The route is around 260 miles long, much of that a straight shot on Interstate 45.

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