The Waymo Driver will be used on UPS Class 8 trucks hauling freight in Texas.

The Waymo Driver will be used on UPS Class 8 trucks hauling freight in Texas.

Photo: Waymo Via

Waymo Via has expanded its partnership with UPS to test autonomous freight movement with Class 8 trucks.

On Nov. 17, Waymo announced that over the next several weeks, the two companies will conduct autonomous trial runs together using Waymo Via Class 8 trucks equipped with the fifth-generation Waymo Driver. These trial runs will take place in Texas, where the Waymo Driver will deliver for UPS’s North American Air Freight unit between facilities in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.

The trucks will still operate with two autonomous specialists, a CDL driver and a software technician to monitor the Waymo Driver during autonomous operations, a Waymo spokesperson told HDT.

“We hope to gather early learnings about how autonomous driving technology can help enhance safety and efficiency, evaluate the performance of the autonomous system and successful delivery of freight, and understand how to refine our autonomous operations in this use case for eventual scaling,” said the Waymo team.

“As we enter into the holiday season, this year’s delivery demand and the need for freight movement remains unprecedented, and Waymo Via will help fill critical needs for our partners during this time.”

Waymo called the move “a natural next step” after working with UPS on autonomous package delivery. Earlier this year, the two companies announced a pilot autonomous vehicle package pickup in the Phoenix area. Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans shuttled packages from The UPS Store locations to a local UPS sorting facility for processing.

The Waymo Driver is how Waymo refers to its autonomous driving technology. There are two pieces to the Waymo Driver: hardware and software. On the hardware side, a sensor suite that includes lidar, cameras, radar, and a powerful AI compute platform provide a 360-degree view of the world. On the software side, the system uses the information those sensors collect to determine where the truck is, what’s around it, what will happen next, and what it should do to navigate the roads safely.

Waymo noted that is is also working with JB Hunt to haul freight along several interstates in Texas and is continuing its work with Daimler on a Level 4 autonomous system for trucks.

Waymo isn’t the only autonomous-truck company UPS has been working with for its North American Air Freight operations. TuSimple has accumulated more than 160,000 miles of paid autonomous freight haulage for UPS's North American Air Freight division over the past two and a half years and recently added more autonomous lanes for the company.

UPS, Waymo Partner on Autonomous Class 8 Truck Trials

Photo: Ross Stewart, RMS3Digital

Watch: How Partnerships Are Propelling the Autonomous Freight Market

Learn more about Waymo Via's autonomous-freight partnerships in this on-demand session from the recent Fleet Forward Conference, where Waymo Via and J.B. Hunt discussed key factors to commercializing an autonomous freight service and what they've learned so far from working together on autonomous freight delivery trial runs in Texas. 

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