UPS is Working to Secure its Future with New Partnerships for Electric & Self-Driving Vehicles

UPS is Working to Secure its Future with New Partnerships for Electric & Self-Driving Vehicles

Author: FutureCar Staff    

The world's largest delivery and logistics company United Parcel Service (UPS) is preparing for its future, and that future includes electric and self-driving vehicles.

The parcel delivery company plans to add both fully-electric and self-driving vehicles to its fleet of delivery vehicles and announced today two new partnerships—one with Waymo and the other with UK-based electric vehicle startup Arrival Ltd.

On Wednesday, UPS announced it's ordering 10,000 electric delivery trucks from Arrival as major package carriers work to cut costs reduce greenhouse emissions.

Arrival said the purchase represents "hundreds of millions of euros worth" of purpose built electric vehicles, helping UPS to accelerate its transition to a zero emissions fleet. The initial order of 10,000 will be rolled out over 2020-2024 with the option for UPS to order an additional 10,000 EVs.

Arrival first announced a partnership with UPS to develop electric vehicles in 2016. The deal also includes a minority investment from UPS. 

Atlanta-based UPS plans to take ownership of all 10,000 Arrival zero-emission electric vehicles by 2025. The first trucks will be deployed in Paris, London and undisclosed U.S. cities in the second half of this year.

UPS and Arrival have co-developed the vehicles which include the latest advanced control and safety features. The fully-electric Arrival trucks have a modular design that's cheaper to build, maintain and customize for the rigors commercial delivery. The vehicle components are interchangeable and designed to be swapped out in 15 minutes or less. 

For example, left and right headlights are the same and can be installed in any size truck, "almost like putting Legos together," said Scott Phillippi, senior director of automotive maintenance and engineering at UPS.

The trucks also have advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), including collision avoidance and features that could one day enable UPS to run more automated vehicles in its depots.

The UPS Pilot With Waymo Using Self-Driving Vehicles

UPS also announced a second pilot with self-driving startup Waymo. In the six-month pilot with Waymo, UPS will pay the company to use its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans to delivery packages from Phoenix, Arizona UPS stores to a sorting center several times a day, starting with a single route.

 Waymo, which spun out of Google's early self-driving car project, is widely considered to be the industry leader in self-driving technology. With over a decade of development under its belt and the financial backing of Google.

Waymo's fleet of self-driving vehicles have driven over 20 million miles on public roads. The company plans to launch a ride-hailing service called Waymo One using a fleet of self-driving vehicles.

However as Waymo pursues its own robotaxi plans, the company is also working on its own self-driving trucks and logistics, using its technology and vast amounts of data to transform the trucking industry. 

Although the Waymo vehicles that UPS will use are autonomous, there will be a safety driver behind the wheel to monitor it at all times.


A Waymo self-driving minivan.

The investment follows e-commerce giant Amazon's $700 million investment in electric vehicle startup Rivian in February, 2019. Amazon ordered 100,000 electric vans from Michigan-based Rivian that it will add to its delivery fleet.

The Arrival and Waymo projects "will help us continue to push the envelope on technology and new delivery models that can complement the way our drivers work," Juan Perez, chief information and engineering officer at UPS, said.

Perez said the Waymo test will not replace the driver on the affected route. That driver will still make the scheduled daily UPS Store stop.

For Waymo, the deal with UPS is the latest in a series of moves to expand the use of its robotic "Waymo Driver" system beyond robo-taxis. Waymo recently expanded testing of its autonomous trucks and vans to Texas and New Mexico. 

Waymo also has extended a deal with automotive retailer AutoNation Inc to deliver parts to Phoenix area stores. In exchange, AutoNation performs service and routine maintenance for Waymo vehicles.

The widespread adoption of electric vehicles could lower their costs, making them less expensive for delivery companies to operate and maintain than fossil fuel-burning vehicles. 

Eventually, removing human drivers altogether might cut costs further.

FutureCar Staff
FutureCar Staff
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