About 10,000 new trucks will be ordered by U.K.-based Arrival, then UPS will partner with Waymo — the self-driving arm of Google parent Alphabet — to do a six-month testing period before the electric vehicles are put on the road. The deal includes a minority investment as well, though financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.
Under the deal, UPS will pay Waymo to use autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans, which will take packages to their destinations from Phoenix UPS stores. They will each start with one route per day. Since electric vehicles have no tailpipe pollution, the team up will be timely, as more cities are looking to cut down on pollution.
By adopting broad numbers of electric vehicles, corporations can cut costs and operate them in less expensive ways. Removing human drivers — though not on the table right now — could also eventually be an even more cost-effective method. However, Waymo’s test drives will not replace human drivers, according to UPS Chief Information and Engineering Officer Juan Perez.
UPS is the latest company to utilize Waymo’s services, which will expand the use of the robotic “Waymo Driver” system beyond robo-taxis. It recently expanded the testing of its vehicles to Texas and New Mexico, and surpassed 100,000 trips with its robo-taxis last December.
The move comes as UPS and competitors like FedEx race to keep up with Amazon, which continues to zap profits from eCommerce deliveries. Four months ago, Amazon announced the purchase of 100,000 electric vans from Michigan startup Rivan, which is partially funded by the online retail giant. Amazon’s expanding delivery network poses challenges for older institutions like UPS and FedEx.
Automated vehicles have been in development recently, and have caught the eye of the Trump administration, which said it approved of the technology.