Jan 31, 2020 - Economy & Business

Waymo's trucking ambitions

Photo: Courtesy of Waymo

Waymo, whose driverless minivans are already shuttling a limited number of passengers in suburban Phoenix, will soon begin delivering packages for UPS as part of a new strategic partnership announced this week.

Why it matters: Waymo's ambition is to use the same self-driving technology in its minivans to automate big rigs and delivery trucks like the ones UPS uses every day. This is an important step toward that goal.

Details: In the first phase of their partnership, Waymo's self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans (with a trained operator on board) will shuttle packages from UPS stores in the Phoenix area to the UPS sorting facility in Tempe.

  • The goal is to explore faster turnaround times in preparation for on-demand delivery.

Background: Last year, Waymo started using minivans to deliver car parts for AutoNation, a business partner that helps manage the fleet of Pacificas.

What they're saying: Waymo sees four potential markets for its self-driving technology: ride-hailing, long-haul trucking, package delivery and eventually, personally owned vehicles.

  • "Right now the movement of things is a bigger market than the people ride-hailing market," Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in an interview with Axios. "But in 10 years, the movement of people with automated ride hailing will be substantially larger."

Go deeper: Waymo's progress on AVs seems reminiscent of Wright brothers

Go deeper

Waymo's driverless milestone marks the start of AV race

Photos: Joann Muller/Axios

A ride in Waymo's driverless minivan is awe-inspiring, but also a reminder of how industry hype has skewed our expectations for self-driving cars.

Why it matters: Waymo is the first company to deploy automated vehicles on public roads without anyone behind the wheel, but all that means is they've crossed the starting line in the self-driving race.

Here's why we should hope self-driving tech is ready soon

Waymo's self-driving minivans. Photo: Courtesy of Waymo

This week during several automated driving demonstrations in Arizona I was reminded why we should all hope self-driving technology is ready soon.

Why it matters: Self-driving cars don't get drunk, tired, distracted — or do things that are just plain stupid — behaviors I saw in spades on the roads in and around Phoenix and Tuscon.

Uber and Lyft's rise may be fueling climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new analysis provides the latest evidence that the explosive growth of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft is making it harder to fight CO2 emissions from transportation.

Driving the news: The Union of Concerned Scientists studied the triple-whammy of trips replacing climate-friendly transit, inducing new travel and "deadhead" miles — that is, when ride-hailing vehicles move without passengers.