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Your Top Questions About Autonomous Driving and Trucks

January 19, 2021

Truck 2 (2)

We’ve collaborated with Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving partner Waymo to answer your top questions about how autonomous driving technology could transform how things get where they’re going. Waymo currently operates a business line, called Waymo Via, that includes local and long-haul trucking services.

At Waymo, we have two service fleets: one for passengers, called Waymo One, and one for local and long-haul deliveries, called Waymo Via. Both fleets use the same autonomous driving system, also known as the Waymo Driver. This is a host of sensors, software and a compute system that Waymo develops in-house. Waymo, which has developed its Waymo Driver for more than a decade, launched its 5th generation Driver last year.

While Waymo first announced its autonomous driving technology would be tested on Class-8 trucks in 2017, all of the company's  experience testing its technology on passenger vehicles set the foundation for its trucking fleet. The two fleets use the same kind of sensors, just placed a little differently.

Why is Waymo developing autonomous trucking technology?

Trucking remains the leading mode of freight transportation in our country. That means it is the most common way that goods are moved in the United States.

Despite advances in safety measures, the trucking industry grapples with safety challenges. While large trucks comprise only 4% of all registered vehicles, they were involved in 9% of all fatal crashes in 2018, according to the National Safety Council.

How will autonomous trucks affect jobs?

The truck driver population is aging toward retirement and fewer young people are choosing this career path. This has resulted in a severe driver shortage, particularly for long-haul routes. Autonomous driving technology has the potential to help fill those gaps in the trucking industry.

Autonomous driving technology has the potential to open up job creation in trucking with new roles.

What are some of the other benefits of autonomous technology for the trucking industry?

Fully autonomous driving technology could make trucking even safer and help strengthen one of America’s most important economic engines.

Waymo has said its goal is to build on the incredible safety advancements the industry has made and help make our roads even safer with autonomous vehicle technology.

Fully autonomous driving technology could also help improve efficiency in the industry, saving time and resources, by reducing the amount of time trucks sit without being utilized.

Where is autonomous driving technology being used on trucks?

Waymo uses autonomous driving technology on Class 8 trucks making local and long-haul trips in California, Arizona, Texas and parts of New Mexico, along the I-10 corridor. 

The Waymo Driver, the term Waymo uses for its autonomous driving system, has driven in a wide variety of cities and environments. In January 2020, Waymo’s Chrysler Pacifica minivans began mapping in  New Mexico and Texas in preparation of Waymo’s autonomous trucking program expanding its routes along the I-10 corridor.

The Waymo Driver will be driving along  many of the interstates, such as the  I-10, I-20, and I-45, which are commercial routes between the aforementioned states.