UPS taps Waymo Via Class 8 autonomous trucks to carry freight

Autonomous transportation company Waymo and delivery company UPS have expanded their partnership to cover Class 8 trucks equipped with Waymo Driver. The partnership is between UPS and Waymo Via, the division that focuses on delivery, and it arrives just in time for the anticipated uptick in delivery demand for the holiday season.

Waymo Via announced the expanded UPS partnership this week, calling it a "natural next step" in the relationship between the two companies. The new plan will first start with a trial run in Texas over "the next several weeks" and involve Waymo Via's autonomous Class 8 trucks running Waymo Driver 5.

The trial will involve carrying freight between UPS's North American Air Freight unit's Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth facilities. The trial runs will be used to "gather early learnings" about the use of Waymo's Class 8 autonomous driving tech on things like performance, how successful it is in delivering freight, how it impacts efficiency and safety, and more.

Waymo has already spent years testing its autonomous driving tech with UPS, though it describes the partnership as still being in its "early days." Additional and more specific details about the expanded partnership weren't provided, however, including how many of Waymo Via's Class 8 autonomous trucks will be used to carry UPS freight.

Though the trucks are equipped with autonomous technology, they won't operate alone. Each Waymo Via vehicle will feature two humans, one who has a commercial driver's license and the other who is trained as a software technician. The CDL driver will take over operations when the truck is on roads other than the highway, according to a statement from Waymo to TechCrunch.