- Waymo, a Google-affiliated self-driving car company, announced this week it is expanding its Waymo Driver technology to Class 8 trucks and last-mile delivery vehicles in the coming years.
- "We're working closely with the ecosystem — shippers, truck makers, and Tier One suppliers — to ensure a successful deployment," Waymo CEO John Krafcik said this week in remarks at the International Automobile Exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany.
- Krafcik also said automated trucking technology would help fill a "pressing need for more drivers in many parts of the world" referencing the nationwide driver shortage often cited by the industry.
Waymo piloted its driverless truck technology for the first time earlier this year with Class 8 trucks running freight to and from a Google data center in Atlanta. While the trucks are using local highways, a licensed driver was always required to be in the cab. Waymo has not given details of an exact launch date or the names of firms it is partnering with for the pilot outside of Google Logistics.
Driverless trucks have been hailed as a solution to the growing driver shortage in the industry in recent years. While the technology is still in its emergent stages, and legal requirements mandate a driver remain present in the vehicle at all times, more and bigger players have been entering the market touting the lower costs and higher efficiency levels to be gained by turning over the keys to a robotic driver.
This year, both the U.S. Postal Service and UPS have launched driverless pilots with TuSimple, an autonomous trucking company, running freight on highways between Phoenix, Arizona and Dallas.
Amazon has also been an early adopter of autonomous trucks, partnering with the firm Embark to run freight across U.S. highways recently.
Also in 2019, Volvo announced its own autonomous trucking base that eliminates the driver cab entirely. The vehicles are currently being piloted to deliver freight in and around ports in Sweden.
To date, Waymo has focused on testing its driverless technology on modified, and custom-built, compact cars and vans from Lexus, Jaguar, Toyota and other automakers. These "robotaxis" have thus far been integrated into Waymo's fully autonomous ride-share pilots in Phoenix, Arizona. However, Krafcik told audiences in Frankfurt that branching out into delivery is the next big move for the company.