August 26th, 2020 by Zachary Shahan
Waymo has been working on self-driving trucks for a couple of years. It launched a self-driving truck pilot program in Georgia in March 2018. Though, we haven’t really heard much about it since then. Now we have.
“On Tuesday, Alphabet’s self-driving car division said it’s officially ready to deploy its autonomous trucks in the Lone Star state,” CNET reports.
Waymo Chrysler Pacifica minivans have been driving the streets of Texas obsessively in recent months to map everything out in as much detail as possible, and now Waymo is confident enough with what it has to let the trucks loose.
The program will start with the Waymo semi trucks test driving on I-10, I-20 and I-45. The company sees these as “promising commercial routes” in Texas.
Waymo has had a small robotaxi service running in the Phoenix metro area since 2018. However, it seems that a highway-based autonomous trucking service would be easier to implement, scale up, and make money on. The Texas trial will show us, sooner or later, how viable it is.
Waymo’s self-driving ventures are both exciting because of the future they may bring and not very exciting because the hope of a high volume of autonomous vehicles has been dangled for so long. I recall seeing a Google self-driving Lexus in Mountain View back in 2006. At the time, I didn’t know what it was, but I recorded a video of it on my totally lame 2005(?) camera. Tech has advanced so much since then, but we still just have a handful fo robotaxi trials and no self-driving platoons of trucks. But maybe the early 2020s is when the magic happens?
Aside from the robotaxi service and this new(ish) self-driving truck trial, Waymo has a new partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in which FCA will use the “L4 Waymo Driver” driver-assist suite across its lineup. Similarly, it partnered with Volvo Cars (Volvo, Polestar, and Lynk & Co.) in June. And Waymo teamed up with the Renault-Nissan Alliance in June 2019, with the partnership testing self-driving vehicles in France and Japan together.
The progress appears to be growing. And Waymo is not the only autonomous game in town. Mobileye keeps growing its network and plans, Nvidia is offering hardware + software packages to automakers (with Mercedes-Benz being an early client), various Chinese companies are moving forward step by step, and then there’s always Tesla doing its thing.
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