Waymo deploys autonomous tractor-trailers in Atlanta

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Updated Mar 14, 2018
This photo from Waymo shows two of the Peterbilt-based autonomous trucks that Waymo will use for testing in Atlanta.This photo from Waymo shows two of the Peterbilt-based autonomous trucks that Waymo will use for testing in Atlanta.

Waymo, a subsidiary of Google parent company Alphabet, announced last week it will begin testing self-driving tractor-trailers this month in Atlanta. The trucks will haul freight in the Atlanta area destined for Google’s data facilities. Drivers will remain in cab to assume control of the vehicle if necessary, but that the trucks will rely mostly on autonomous control. The company did not say how many trucks are included in the pilot testing.

The tests “will let us further develop our technology and integrate it into the operations of shippers and carriers,” the company said in a blog post Friday. “As our self-driving trucks hit the highways in the region, we’ll have highly trained drivers in the cabs to monitor and take control if needed.”

Waymo’s technology is a retrofit system that adds autonomous capabilities to existing vehicles. The company did not specify what types of trucks it would be using for its testing, but photos corresponding with Waymo’s announcement show two blue Peterbilts equipped with the company’s sensor system. The company says it looks to build on the success of passenger car tests conducted in Arizona and California.

“Our near-decade of experience with passenger vehicles has given us a head start in trucking,” the company wrote. Waymo says it has conducted 5 million on-road miles of testing with its passenger cars, and another 5 billion total miles “driven in simulation.”

The announcement of Waymo’s pilot tests came the same week two other autonomous venturists, Starsky Robotics and Uber, announced autonomous truck updates. Starsky announced it had completed a seven-mile unmanned autonomous test, while Uber said it was forging forward with testing and autonomous “transfer hubs” in Arizona. Last month, autonomous upstart Embark said it conducted an unloaded cross-country test run with one of its self-driving tractor-trailers.