Waymo to Pilot Autonomous Big Rigs in Atlanta

Randal Sanchez
March 11, 2018

This isn't too much of a problem as Waymo's technology is adaptable and the self-driving trucks use the same suite of sensors as the company's fully-autonomous minivans. In a post on Medium, Waymo announced that it will be starting a pilot program for its autonomous trucks in Atlanta, Georgia next week. The company said that trained drivers will ride inside the truck cabs to monitor their progress and take over if needed.

To accomplish this, Waymo will be teaming up with Google's logistics team to accelerate the development of their self-driving semi truck technology and "integrate it into the operations of shippers and carriers".

Waymo has been testing its autonomous tractor-trailers on roads in California and Arizona since past year.

"Our software is learning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars", Waymo said in a blog post. Although the basic principles of driving remain the same, driving a truck that's loaded down with cargo is trickier due to its size and different ways of handling.

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"They benefit from the same advanced self-driving software that has enabled our cars to go fully driverless in Arizona", the Waymo team said.

Uber has been testing self-driving truck technology since 2016, and began using autonomous rigs for hauls late a year ago. 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. "And our engineers and AI experts are leveraging the same five million miles we've already self-driven on public roads, plus the five billion miles we've driven in simulation".

Uber announced Tuesday that its freight unit was using self-driving semis with human backup drivers to haul consumer goods on freeways in Arizona.

Waymo joins Uber and Tesla in the race to develop autonomous trucks and disrupt the traditional trucking industry. A Waymo spokeswoman declined to say how many trucks will be tested.

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