Waymo is launching their self-driving semi truck pilot test next week

Sean Reid
March 11, 2018

Now Waymo has confirmed that it is about to kickstart a pilot in Atlanta for self-driving trucks that will be used to cart goods destined for Google's datacenters.

"This pilot, in partnership with Google's logistics team, will let us further develop our technology and integrate it into the operations of shippers and carriers, with their network of factories, distribution centers, ports and terminals", the Waymo team said. Although the basic principles of driving remain the same, driving a truck that's loaded down with cargo is trickier due to its size and different ways of handling.

Though Waymo has been testing its self-driving semis for a year now, they're not quite ready for the big leagues yet.

To be clear, this isn't the first time Waymo has tested their semi trucks in public - the company is well aware of the many differences between driving a semi truck and driving a traditional minivan.

The trucks will have safety drivers on board to monitor the various systems and take control if needed. Interestingly, the company said it now has nearly 10 years of experience in self-driving passenger vehicles, which it will leverage for its autonomous trucks. 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.

Going the distance: Waymo has already driven five million miles on public roads and another five billion in simulation. Uber announced this week that its own self-driving trucks starting hauling freight across Arizona in a test program. Last week, Uber announced that its autonomous trucks have been operating in Arizona for a couple months now.

Waymo believes self-driving technology has the potential to make this sector safer and more efficient. There, the trailers are hitched onto self-driving trucks for long highway hauls, according to the San Francisco-based company. So we may see self-driving trucks on the roads before cars without drivers.

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