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

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