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Same driver, different vehicle: Bringing Waymo self-driving technology to trucks
09 March 2018, 10:13 | Brandon Parsons
Waymo is testing self-driving trucks in Atlanta
More accurately, Alphabet's autonomous mobility division is kicking off a pilot program in Georgia's capital city where its semi trucks will carry loads headed for Google's data centers. Of course, self-driving trucks aren't yet ready for full autonomy - there will be a driver present in the cab at all times, much as with cars.
Though the program will draw on Waymo's learnings from the vehicle sphere, putting trucks on public roads comes with its own challenges.
Waymo's autonomous vehicles have now racked up more than five million self-driven miles on public roads, and all of that testing is helping the company move forward with trucking quickly. In the pilot, Waymo will integrate its technology into the operations of shippers and carriers with their network of factories, distribution centres, ports and terminals. It's eager to put that that legacy to the test in a more challenging environment.
Although Waymo is testing self-driving technology on the trucks, there will be a driver behind the wheel. The principles are the same, but things like braking, turning, and blind spots are different with a fully-loaded truck and trailer.
In a blog post, Waymo wrote "We've been able to make rapid progress because our driver - Waymo's self-driving technology - is not only experienced, but adaptable". Germany's Daimler AG got a jump on Waymo when it showed off its fully licensed autonomous Freightliner Inspiration truck at the Hoover Dam in 2015.
On Monday, Uber announced that it was hauling freight across Arizona in its self-driving trucks.
Self-driving trucks could be quite interesting, since trucking is a very vital part of our economy.
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