Waymo and AutoNation: Where the rubber meets the real delivery world – Automotive News
Human drivers, some employed by AutoNation and some by independent contractors, deliver most of the parts. Waymo’s driverless vehicles complement their work.
Waymo and AutoNation first partnered on self-driving matters in November 2017, when the latter agreed to help provide maintenance for Waymo’s burgeoning fleet in the metro Phoenix area. AutoNation has twice invested in Waymo’s fundraising rounds, and the partners expanded the scope of their work in November 2019, adding these autonomous B2B deliveries which now reach a dozen locations.
While Wilson ranks among the majority of Americans who don’t yet trust autonomous vehicles for human travel, she’s agnostic on whether an AV carries a particular parcel. So long as it gets where it needs to go and customers are happy.
There are practical considerations, though, for using a Waymo AV for deliveries.
“I can’t fit half this stuff into a car,” she said, pointing to a warehouse full of automotive parts.
Unlike Waymo’s partnership with UPS Inc., which has dedicated Chrysler Pacificas tailored for short-haul package delivery, AutoNation uses the same Waymo vehicles used by human passengers. Sometimes the seats get in the way.
That’s a conscious decision by the partners to try and maximize the usage of the robotaxi fleet. Riders often need the vehicles at different times from when deliveries are in demand during a weekday, so the two uses can be complementary.
“The hypothesis is that sharing between the ride-hailing service and delivery we gain economies of scale and reduce costs for our partners,” said Melanie D’achon, a strategic partnerships manager at Waymo who oversees the work with AutoNation.
Driverless deliveries cannot take place outside Waymo’s operating range, and AutoNation’s customers are all over the East Valley.
Sometimes dealerships within the geofenced area are not eligible for autonomous deliveries because Waymo vehicles cannot turn around in their parking lots; they are constrained by an inability to reverse. But Waymo and AutoNation are working to add more eligible locations this quarter.