Waymo Via has begun testing autonomous trucks in Texas, using two of the country’s biggest freight hubs as testing grounds.
The Class 8, Peterbilt 579 trucks are being tested out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, running to El Paso via Interstates 20 and 10, and to Houston via Interstate 45.
Each truck is equipped with Waymo Driver sensors and cameras, but is manned by a real, human truck driver, who will manually drive the routes first before allowing the autonomous software to attempt the route without human intervention.
“Dallas and Houston are known to be part of the biggest freight hubs in the U.S.,” explained a Waymo spokesperson via email. “Operating in that environment, we can test our Waymo Driver on highly dense highways and shipping lanes, further understand how other truck and passenger car drivers behave on these routes, and continue to refine the way our Waymo Driver reacts and responds in these busy driving regions.”
So far, the Waymo Driver platform has gathered information from 20 million miles across public roads in over 25 cities and the artificial intelligence technology has simulated another 15 billion miles. Waymo hopes that it’s technology will help to further improve the thriving trucking industry in the state of Texas and is even currently hiring CDL Test drivers for the project.
“We are trying to enable this thriving industry with the Waymo Driver, not disrupt it,” continued the Waymo spokesperson in correspondence with Trucker. “We believe our technology can help alleviate the strain on the industry that exists today due to the rising driver shortage and the challenges that come with trying to recruit and retain drivers.”
Waymo also hopes to improve safety on the roads with their autonomous technology, although many question how autonomous technology will be capable of making decisions in ever-changing road conditions.
Still, according to Waymo Via trucking product lead, Vijaysai Patnaik, “Fatalities from large truck crashes have been increasing over the decade, while the overall crash fatalities have decreased during that period. So our goal really is to improve the safety on the road by making every mile traveled with Waymo Driver safer, because it doesn’t get tired or distracted.”
“The technology can help minimize fleet downtime and reduce incidents on the road, lower insurance costs, and help ensure shipments arrive safely, securely and on-time.”
Presently, Waymo has raised more than $3 billion in its first external funding round.