Waymo's, the former Google self-driving vehicle project, announced it is turning its attention to the trucking industry. Starting next week, Waymo's self-driving trucks will begin hauling cargo to Google's data centers. Google's own logistics team is partnering with Waymo to develop the autonomous trucks through the pilot program. Waymo has also tested the trucks on roads in California and Arizona but a spokesperson says they are "accelerating their learning and moving into a new phase of testing in Georgia". The drivers will also be able to monitor the computer systems while the trucks drive themselves.
For the structured testing, Waymo looks at how self-driving cars perform on real roads to determine how they need to practice - then they build what's required at Castle.
Trucking represents a significant business opportunity for the half-dozen large and small tech companies pushing into the space.
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Waymo, however, is limiting the self-driving trucks to local routes rather than the type of long hauls where the driving limits are most likely to come into play for the human in the cab supervising the robotic controls. Though Waymo has already been testing that service throughout the city on a smaller scale, it's expected to roll out in earnest sometime this year. If you live in Atlanta and see one of Waymo's big blue trucks, then, you can rest assured that it isn't operating completely autonomously yet. "The transport of freight and cargo is a critical driver for the American economy".
Still, Waymo said it's been able to make rapid progress because its trucking tech shares numerous same components developed for its self-driving minivan, including sensors and software.
Autonomous-vehicle technology has been touted as having potential to save fuel, ease congestion, and make transportation safer.