Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving company born out of Google X, is seen by many as the leader in the field of self-driving.
After focusing on autonomous passenger cars to soon launch a self-driving ride-hailing service, the company is now expanding the effort to trucks.
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The company has been known to have been working on a truck program since last summer, but they confirmed it today in a blog post.
Over the past year, we’ve been conducting road tests of Waymo’s self-driving trucks in California and Arizona. Our software is learning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars. The principles are the same, but things like braking, turning, and blind spots are different with a fully-loaded truck and trailer.
Now the program is expanding to Atlanta, Georgia, which they will make the home of Google’s logistical operations.
From there, Waymo will ship cargo to Google’s data centers.
They say that you will be able to see Waymo’s blue trucks on the road as soon as next week as part of the pilot program:
They appear to be using Peterbilt’s heavy-duty truck with their own custom sensor suite, like on their Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid vans.
Waymo is going to be looking to leverage their already 9-year experience in self-driving technology to truck driving, but even with all their experience, they are going to face some significant competition in the space.
Most notably from Uber’s Otto – against which they recently settled a lawsuit after accusing the company of stealing trade secrets. Waymo is getting about $250 million out of the settlement.
Tesla is also working in the same space though its ‘Tesla Semi’ program is more about electric trucks than self-driving trucks. Like Waymo leveraging its work with self-driving passenger cars, Tesla equipped the Tesla Semi truck with the same Autopilot hardware suite found on all its current vehicles and it plans to introduce increasingly more advanced autonomous features to the vehicles.