Waymo to start rolling out self-driving truck fleet in Atlanta

Waymo's autonomous trucking program is coming along - though we haven't heard much about it since discovering it was a real thing previous year, Waymo today announced that it's launching a pilot program in Atlanta to focus specifically on self-driving trucks and automated logistics. 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". Back in October, we reported the company's vehicles could be intelligent enough to handle emergencies without any human input.

Now that Waymo is free of its long-running legal battle with Uber, it is focusing its attention on more important endeavors; namely spreading its self-driving technology to more platforms. While numerous basic principles of a self-driving semi-truck are similar with passenger vehicles like the Lexus RX 450h and Chrysler Pacifica vehicles that Waymo typically uses, considerations have to be made for "braking, turning, and blind spots" with the fully-loaded weight of such a vehicle, and its huge size.

"Things like braking, turning, and blind spots are different with a fully-loaded truck and trailer", Waymo writes.

Today's announcement comes a couple of weeks after Waymo announced its self-driving cars had covered 5 million miles on public roads. Another startup called Embark has been hauling real cargo with autonomous trucks (and a safety driver behind the wheel) since last fall. The program, called Uber Freight, addresses shipping logistics with software, connecting shippers to available truck drivers via an app- much like Uber's ride-hailing app works.

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Uber's program is focused on developing self-driving trucks for highway-only portions of trips, using a hub and spoke system that would find human truckers picking up loads at weigh stations just off the highway and transporting the goods to their final destinations.

Commercial trucking is seen as one of the biggest areas of opportunity for self-driving technology.

Trucking is a vital part of the American economy.

Waymo's self-driving trucks will start rolling out next week.

  • Rita Burton