As the annual holiday rush begins on top of pandemic-accelerated e-commerce demand, autonomous truck developers are moving forward with more trials. Waymo Via, the delivery unit of Alphabet Inc. company Waymo LLC, last week announced that it is expanding its partnership with United Parcel Service of America Inc. from vans to trucks.
“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,” said Waymo in a blog post. “That’s why we’re expanding our partnership with UPS to autonomous freight movement with Class 8 trucks, a natural next step following the strong and successful partnership we’ve had testing local delivery.”
In January, Tekedra Mawakana, chief operating officer of Waymo, announced that Chrysler Pacifica vans using its Waymo Driver automous technology would deliver packages from UPS stores in Phoenix and Tempe, Ariz. The vehicles included safety drivers and demonstrated that Waymo Driver could be used for deliveries safely, efficiently, and at scale, said the company.
Waymo Via to test trucks with UPS in Texas
“Over the next several weeks, we’ll conduct autonomous trial runs together using our Waymo Via Class 8 trucks equipped with the fifth-generation Waymo Driver,” said Waymo. “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.”
“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,” the company added.
Waymo has also collaborated with J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. on autonomous freight hauling in Texas. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company has partnered with Ryder and AutoNation to maintain its self-driving truck fleet nationwide.
Autonomous funding keeps on trucking
The global market for long-haul trucking will have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 57% between 2021 and 2028, led by North America, according to MarketResearch.com. By comparison, MarketWatch was more cautious, predicting a CAGR of 5.8% for the autonomous truck makert in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mordor Intelligence forecast a CAGR of 18.6% between 2020 and 2025, and it noted that safety is still a leading concern.
Although autonomous truck developer Plus called off its planned merger with special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Hennnessy Capital Investment Corp. V earlier this month, investors are still putting billions of dollars into development.
Earlier this month, Kodiak Robotics raised $125 million in Series B funding. In September, tire maker Goodyear participated in Gatik's $85 million Series B round, and medium-duty driverless truck developer DeepRoute.ai closed $300 million in Series B funding.
Inceptio raised $270 million in its Series B in August. In July, Aurora Innovation announced a $1 billion SPAC merger, and in June, Embark Trucks said it expected to raise $614 million in a SPAC deal.
Waymo raised $2.4 billion in funding in June as it continues to develop the Waymo Driver for autonomous vehicles ranging from ride-hailing cars to vans and trucks.
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