Waymo moves beyond driverless taxis with trucking program

11 March, 2018, 01:51 | Author: Teresa Adams
  • Waymo’s self-driving tech spreads to semi trucks

Waymo is starting out small with this pilot test, using these semi trucks to carry cargo destined for Google's data centers. The trucks will not be completely alone because there will be highly trained drivers in the cabs, just in case anything goes wrong. Waymo will also work with Google's logistics team to find other places in the supply chain where self-driving technology can be used-inside factories and distribution centers, say, or at port terminals. Waymo began testing the technology on the trucks in 2017 at California and Arizona research facilities.

"Our software is learning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars", the company said in a blog post.

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Both moves are only the latest steps in the advancement of self-driving vehicle technology.

Waymo, the self-driving vehicle unit owned by Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL), has always been at the forefront of the self-driving auto revolution, and now it's bringing that expertise into the commercial trucking world as well.

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Today's announcement comes a couple of weeks after Waymo announced its self-driving cars had covered 5 million miles on public roads. However, truck drivers could eventually become a thing of the past as Waymo says "self-driving technology has the potential to make this sector safer and even stronger" in the future. Another startup called Embark has been hauling real cargo with autonomous trucks (and a safety driver behind the wheel) since last fall. Beyond that, Waymo's trucks will also be outfitted with the same set of custom-built sensors that we've seen on the company's self-driving minivan. According to the American Trucking Associations, trucking revenues were $676.2 billion in 2016, while trucks moved more than 10.4 billion tons of freight. The company is reimagining many different types of transportation - from ride-hailing to logistics. There, the trailers are hitched onto self-driving trucks for long highway hauls, according to the San Francisco-based company.

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