The new six-week pilot will serve the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas and support the high-volume holiday shopping and shipping season. Waymo vehicles will transport cargo deliveries between geographies using Class 8 trucks, the highest gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) in the United States, which covers semi-trailers and vehicles at 18 wheels. The partner program will deploy Waymo autonomous vehicles to make deliveries. Each truck will have two specialists on board, a driver with a commercial driver’s license and a software technician who oversees operations in autonomous mode, returning to manual mode for other parts of the delivery segment.
The partnership spans an existing agreement between Waymo and UPS dating back to January 2020 that ended earlier this year. The goal of this initial initiative, where Waymo delivered small packages to Phoenix, Arizona, with autonomos Chrysler pacifica minivans, was to develop a long-term plan for how Waymo and UPS could work together. Waymo was able to emerge from the Phoenix pilot with rich lessons on the program’s key guardrails, such as calling vehicles and loading and unloading packages during delivery.
The Autonomous Delivery Trucking Pilot will provide Waymo with a different dataset related to autonomous freight, rather than local delivery, and during future trials in Houston and Dallas, Waymo and UPS will collect data on efficiency and the safety of driverless semi-trucks. . Waymo intends to build a nine-acre test facility and delivery center for its stand-alone semi-trailer initiative in Texas, which is part of the reason this new pilot is taking place in the state.
The official number of Waymo autonomous vehicles used for the Texan pilot has not been made public, but the company said that “several” trucks in its driverless vehicle test fleet Peterbilts who are equipped with its fifth generation driver technology will participate. Semi-trailers without driver, but monitored and manned, will deliver goods for UPS North American Air Freight (NAAF).
Recently, Waymo has launched various initiatives to scale up its self-driving delivery and autonomous trucking and transportation operations, particularly in the states of Texas, Arizona and California. In June, the autonomous delivery company announced a freight forwarding partnership with JB Hunting, which takes place on the busy Interstate-45 between Houston and Fort Worth. Shortly after, Waymo also announced that it would build a dedicated truck hub in Dallas, as well as a partnership with Ryder for fleet management services. All of this will provide a rich data set for the autonomous delivery company’s fleet as it continues to develop its range of next-generation options for the first and last mile.
This article originally appeared in the PSFK report, Optimizing Last Mile CX.