Alphabet’s Waymo and truck fleet operator CH Robinson to test automated trucks with safety drivers in Texas. The testing is planned to start in the coming months. This partnership will allow the companies to test vehicles in real-life situations and predict the possible challenges when the fleet is ultimately deployed.
This will combine Waymo Via’s technology with C.H. Robinson’s network of almost 200,000 shippers and carriers, as well as logistics data on more than three million trucking lanes, Waymo said. Although Waymo Via’s trucks are automated, they come with safety drivers that handle braking, accelerating, and wide turns for the trucks, the company’s website says.
“C.H. Robinson’s size, scale, and platform give us access to rich and unique transportation data along with customer relationships and pilot opportunities to help bring our Waymo Via solution to the market,” Charlie Jatt, head of commercialization for trucking at Waymo Via, said in the statement. It comes at a time when the US is struggling from a shortage of around 80,000 truck drivers. According to Business Insider, Truckers said people were leaving the industry because of a lack of benefits, low salaries, and missing out on quality time with their families.
Development of trucks
A number of self-driving firms are scrambling to forge partnerships with truck makers, operators, and customers, accelerating the race to put automated trucks on the road. Long-haul trucks should be easier to automate than robotaxis because major highways are less challenging environments than bustling city roads. Still, Waymo was cautious about how fast they can ramp up.
“We also have a lot of humility that our technology solution is just one piece of a very complex puzzle,” said Charlie Jatt, head of commercialization for trucking, Waymo Via. Also added, “It is going to take a gradual evolution to scale this to the full benefit,”
Waymo has been developing autonomous driving technology for over a decade, but it has yet to scale up the technology. It initially focused on robo-taxis but in 2017 set up Waymo Via to build technology for automated trucking and delivery services. The company also has partnerships with Daimler’s truck unit, long-haul trucker JB Hunt and package carrier UPS. Waymo is integrating its self-driving software and sensors with Daimler trucks. It has been testing with JB Hunt and UPS in Texas where Waymo hopes to deploy fully autonomous trucking technology in the next few years. More developments are expected alongside the increasing competition among automakers.