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Waymo Partnering with Uber on Autonomous Trucking


A truck traveling on an asphalt road at sunrise. | Photo by Vitpho via Shutterstock

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Waymo and Uber were once rivals in the tech world, racing to see who could be the first company to promote self-driving services. Now, the two have partnered up to become a powerhouse duo in the self-driving space to bring forward a shared goal: driverless freight trucks. Waymo is specifically partnering with Uber Freight to “power its autonomous big rigs” in what they’re calling a “long-term strategic partnership.”

Alphabet subsidiary Waymo is currently made up of two divisions for autonomous driving projects: Waymo One and Waymo Via. Waymo One is a “consumer ride-hailing service,” while Waymo Via is geared towards consumer goods and “deliver in both trucking and local” aspects. Uber initially launched Uber Freight in 2017 to help connect real-life drivers with trucks that needed to go out for delivery to make the trucking business more of a freelance-driven industry. This method was mirrored after their rideshare service, where drivers can set their own hours and work when and where they please.

This partnership takes that idea to the next step by allowing trucks to go driverless through “deep product integration…that involves building the tools and infrastructure specific to the successful deployment of autonomous trucks,” according to the Uber website. Uber’s site explains that one of the long-term benefits of this partnership will help supply-chain networks by being able to “advise on how best to adjust their…strategies for a hybrid network future.”

Lior Ron, Head of Uber Freight, stated that the company is in a “unique” position to be the first and, at the moment, only driverless network. He noted that the partnership is an “exciting leap forward, and we are proud to work alongside the amazing team at Waymo Via.” In terms of Google having its own trucks, at present, that is not something they are considering. Trucking Commercial Lead Charlie Jatt said earlier this year the goal is to “develop a business model to enable an already thriving industry, rather than [disrupting] it. We want to be a technology provider. Not a truck manufacturer. Not a truck fleet. We don’t even want to own and operate the truck assets ourselves.”

Uber Freight does not own a fleet of trucks, either. This alignment of goals makes the partnership a perfect pairing. Waymo has had its technology in development for over a decade, making the transition to trucking with Uber an easier process. Waymo Trucking Product Lead Vijaysai Patnaik said, “all testing [conducted] is with drivers in the truck. We will remove the human from the cab when [testing] is safe to do so.” One of the hurdles facing self-driving rigs is the ability of the technology to safely detect construction zones, accidents, and other unforeseen things that may occur on the road.

Once the technology is set to take the next step, the partnership hopes to help supply-chains streamline their shipping and delivery processes and unlock a “much-needed capacity for shippers, increasing fuel efficiency, providing carriers with the opportunity to scale their business” and ultimately benefit everyone.

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3 months ago

Wonderful. We now have autonomous cars getting in accidents and running over pedestrians. Just what we need is fully loaded semis driving themselves. What could go wrong?