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Waymo is Deploying Self-Driving Trucks in Texas in a New Partnership with Fleet Operator C.H. Robinson

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【Summary】Waymo, the autonomous driving technology division of Alphabet that spun out of Google’s self-driving car project, is expanding its deployment of self-driving Class-8 trucks with a new partnership with Texas fleet operator C.H. Robinson Worldwide. Over the next few months, Waymo plans to deploy the self-driving trucks in Texas with safety drivers behind the wheel.

FutureCar Staff    Feb 16, 2022 9:30 AM PT
Waymo is Deploying Self-Driving Trucks in Texas in a New Partnership with Fleet Operator C.H. Robinson

Waymo, the autonomous driving technology division of Alphabet that spun out of Google's self-driving car project, is expanding its deployment of self-driving Class-8 trucks with a new partnership with Texas fleet operator C.H. Robinson Worldwide. 

Over the next few months, Waymo plans to deploy the self-driving trucks in Texas with safety drivers behind the wheel. C.H. Robinson will be among the early adopters of Waymo's automated trucking technology.

The partnership will initially include running multiple pilots for C.H. Robinson's customers by delivering freight between Dallas and Houston using Waymo's test fleet. But the two companies will work together to shape the future development and expansion of autonomous driving technology across the industry, according to Waymo.

C.H. Robinson is one of the world's largest logistics platforms and a leader in freight delivery. The company has a network of nearly 200,000 shippers and carriers, as well as data on over 3 million lanes, which provides Waymo with valuable insights that can help the company scale its logistics technology more effectively. 

C.H. Robinson also provides a logistics platform for connecting shippers with autonomous vehicle capacity. It also lays the foundation for Waymo to make its technology available to more shipping partners and evolve its Driver-as-a-Service business model as part of its logistics business Waymo Via, which is intended to make freight delivery more efficient and cost effective. 

"We look forward to this collaboration with C.H. Robinson, both for their deep roots and experience in logistics and transportation, but also as a company that shares our vision of how technology and autonomous trucking can change our industry for the better," said Charlie Jatt, Head of Commercialization for Trucking, Waymo Via. "C.H. Robinson's size, scale and platform gives us access to rich and unique transportation data along with customer relationships and pilot opportunities to help bring our Waymo Via solution to the market."

Fully-autonomous trucks can operate 24 hours per day and be better utilized without downtime due to the mandatory breaks that human truck drivers are required to take. The self-driving technology can also help address the chronic shortage of truck drivers in the industry that's been made even worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alongside its work on self-driving vehicles designed to carry people, Waymo developed an entire autonomous driving hardware and software stack for Class-8 trucks the company calls the "Waymo Driver".

Waymo refers to its Waymo Driver as the "The World's Most Experienced Driver". In 2020, Waymo announced it achieved freeway driving capabilities for its entire fleet of self-driving Class-8 trucks. The Waymo Driver is the foundation for all of Waymo's autonomous vehicle development. 

Many analysts predict that self-driving trucks carrying freight will appear on highways well before self-driving vehicles that carry passengers. From an engineering standpoint, developing an autonomous truck for highway driving is much less complex compared to passenger vehicles or robotaxis capable of navigating city streets that are packed with other vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Autonomous trucks can also greatly increase safety, efficiency and costs, which is attractive to leading shipping companies like C.H. Robinson and J.B Hunt.

Waymo, along with a new crop of startups, is actively working to deploy self-driving trucks for freight delivery and are racing to form partnerships with shipping companies to deploy them. Among companies competing with Waymo are TuSimple, Aurora, Embark and Torc Robotics.

Last month, Waymo announced it was expanding its relationship with shipper J.B. Hunt. The two companies entered into a long-term, strategic alliance to commercialize autonomous driving technology for Class-8 trucks after successful trials using self-driving trucks last year.

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The Waymo Via Business Model

Waymo starts by developing its Waymo Driver autonomous driving stack and partners with OEMs like Daimler Truck, to install the necessary hardware on the truck. Waymo is integrating its advanced autonomous driving stack it calls into Class 8 trucks from Daimler's truck unit Freightliner. Waymo plans to sell these trucks to fleet operators and carriers. 

Once deployed, Waymo's logistics business Waymo Via provides deployment support and ongoing services for all of the hardware and software components for the trucks. 

For shippers like C.H. Robinson, its core business and carrier network remains intact. Waymo's approach is to let shippers conintune "to do what they do best", while its handles the technology side of things.

"We are excited to partner with Waymo Via to explore how autonomous driving technology can help bring increased capacity and sustainability into our logistics strategies," said Chris O'Brien, Chief Commercial Officer, C.H. Robinson. "Together, we are going to harness this emerging freight technology and its potential on behalf of customers and carriers."

Waymo has been working on autonomous driving technology for Class-8 trucks since 2017. Its self-driving passenger vehicle development began in 2009 as part of Google's self-driving car project. 

Google spun off the self-driving car project as Waymo when its restructured as Alphabet Inc. in Oct 2015. Google and Waymo are both now wholly-owned subsidiaries of parent Alphabet.

With the backing of Google over the years and more than a decade of development under its belt, Waymo is considered to be the U.S. industry leader in autonomous driving technology. The company's fleet of self-driving test vehicles has traveled over 25 million miles on public roads and billions more in computer simulation as its continues to improve and refine its Waymo Driver.

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