Google’s self-driving car arm Waymo on Wednesday announced it will partner with UPS to deliver packages across Arizona.
Waymo’s automated minivans will transport packages from Phoenix UPS stores to Tempe sorting facilities, while a (human) Waymo employee will monitor the cars’ performance along the delivery route.
“UPS and Waymo are exploring automated and autonomous technologies to enhance network operations,” UPS chief strategy and transformation officer Scott Price said in a joint statement with Waymo.
“Getting packages to our sortation facilities sooner and more frequently, while also creating an opportunity for later drop-offs for next-day service, can add enormous value for our customers.”
And while the trial is limited to Arizona, if it is successful, it could mark the start of further disruption to delivery practices worldwide.
Self-driving cars could be used to speed up delivery times in major cities, as well as facilitate returns, which is one of the most difficult issues facing e-commerce companies globally due to the high costs associated with dedicated carriers or employed drivers taking packages back.
The pilot program marks another milestone for Waymo, which in 2018 launched Waymo One in Arizona and became the first commercial autonomous ride-hailing service.
UPS has also been partnering with autonomous trucking startup TuSimple since May last year to ferry cargo between Phoenix and Tucson.
Earlier this month, Kyle Vogt, co-founder of competing self-driving company Cruise, called for a rehaul of the metrics used to determine whether autonomous vehicles are truly ready for commercial use.
California’s Department of Motor Vehicles is expected to next month release a report on testing self-driving vehicles.