Waymo Spreads its Autonomous Future to Include Trucks

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【Summary】With its self-driving car program well on its way, Waymo, Alphabet’s driverless automotive segment, has expanded its sights to trucks.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jun 09, 2017 9:00 AM PT
Waymo Spreads its Autonomous Future to Include Trucks

The number of companies and automakers working on self-driving cars has drastically expanded in the past few years. With everyone setting their sights on cars, the next big thing that everyone's going to focus on are semi-trucks. Currently, Volvo, Nvidia, Einride – a Swedish firm – and Uber are just a few of the companies working on autonomous semis that will transport goods across the country. 

In fact, while automakers and companies are making large strides when it comes to fitting cars with driverless technology, analysts believe that autonomous trucks will be on the road before cars. There's one major factor that goes into this belief – the fact that semi-trucks spend the majority of their time on large highways that have well-defined markers. 

Waymo Enters The Semi-Truck Segment

In the hopes of being one of the first to create a driverless semi-truck, Waymo, Alphabet's autonomous program, has entered into the fray, as well. The company confirmed its plans earlier this week, and stated that it is currently working on a way to commercialize its driverless tech for the trucking industry, reports Wired. 

"Self-driving technology can transport people and things much more safely than we do today and reduce the thousands of trucking-related deaths each year," stated Waymo in a statement. As Wired reports, there's a lot that can be done to reduce the amount of trucking-related deaths. The outlet claims that semi-truck crashes kill approximately 4,000 people in the U.S. every year. And the large vehicles injure roughly 116,000 more, claims Wired

In addition to the safety aspect of self-driving semis, there's also an argument that can be made for the commercial side of things. As the American Trucking Associations (ATA) claims, there's a shortage of semi-truck drivers in the U.S. The report by the (ATA) also reveals that the shortage could get worse in the future. The association reports that the trucking industry could have a deficit of 175,000 drivers by 2024. 

Fitting semi-trucks with self-driving technology, then, is not only a way to make the roads safer, but also a way of reducing the shortage. 

Why Waymo's The One To Do It

If there's a company that has the tech to do just that, it's Waymo. As Wired claims, the tech company has eight years of data on how to create a driverless car, which the company now hopes to transfer from passenger cars to commercial trucks. The outlet claims that Wyamo has already started testing its vehicles on its private course in California and has progressed to working on the details of sensor location. Waymo, according to Wired, will test its semi-trucks in Arizona later this year. 

While there's a shortage of truck drivers in the U.S., Waymo doesn't want to completely cut human drivers out of the equation. Wired claims that Waymo wants its driverless semis to do the boring parts of the trip – the thousands of miles of highway driving – with human drivers completing the more complex parts. 

With Uber acquiring Otto, a self-driving truck startup, last year, it looks like the two companies will continue to compete against one another for the foreseeable future.

via: Wired

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