Google's Waymo To Face Off With Tesla In Autonomous Trucks

Jon Howard
March 10, 2018

The company has already been conducting road tests for the self-driving Semis in California and Arizona for the past year, but this new pilot lets Waymo expand its understanding of how shippers and carriers will integrate the trucks into their distribution networks.

Self-driving tractor-trailer trucks have begun delivering cargo in the Atlanta area, Waymo, Google Inc.'s vehicle subsidiary, announced Friday. Like the current Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid fleet of consumer-focused autonomous cars, there will be a human driver in the cab for now to monitor systems and take over control if necessary.

"Now we're headed to Georgia", the company said. Over this period, Waymo has improved its software by learning to drive the big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars. The company still has work to do, but starting with the industry-leading software in its minivans gives Waymo a significant head start. So we may see self-driving trucks on the roads before cars without drivers.

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Uber claims to have made the first commercial shipment ever by a self-driving truck when it hauled a trailer full of Budweiser beer over about 120 miles (193 kilometers) of highway in Colorado.

Self-driving trucks could be quite interesting, since trucking is a very vital part of our economy. "With Waymo in the driver's seat, we can reimagine many different types of transportation - from ride-hailing to logistics", explains the company in a blog post.

The latest installment, coming on the heels of a settled lawsuit between the two tech giants, involves self-driving truck testing.

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