Freight forwarding company JB Hunt works with Waymo to deliver robotic big rig in Texas.
Waymo, the self-propelled unit of Alphabet Inc., is working with trucking giant JB Hunt to test how well its autonomous big rigs handle moving loads for commercial customers on Texas highways, starting with a cargo trip between Houston and Fort Worth.
Test runs will be conducted using Waymo Via autonomous semi-vehicles transporting cargo for JB Hunt on the 260-mile Interstate 45 between the two Texas cities. The trucks will operate in level 4 autonomous mode and perform the driving functions that a human would normally do, but a commercially licensed driver and Waymo technician will be seated in the cab to see how the robotic Waymo driver performs during the Monitor delivery journeys. The companies say their partnership aims to see how autonomous trucks can be integrated into commercial fleets and whether they can provide more safety and more efficient operation.
“This will be one of the first opportunities for JB Hunt to get data and feedback on customer loads being carried on a Class 8 tractor operating at this level of autonomy,” said Craig Harper, chief sustainability officer and executive vice president of JB Hunt. “While we believe that there will be a need for highly skilled, professional drivers for many years to come, it is important for JB Hunt, as an industry leader, to be involved early in the development of advanced autonomous technologies and driving systems to ensure that they are implemented.” Increase efficiency and increase security at the same time. “
Autonomous trucking remains a particularly dynamic area of self-driving technology development due to the lack of truck drivers in the US and a somewhat simpler operating environment on freeways than crowded city streets that robotaxis must master. Waymo has numerous competitors in high-tech trucking, including TuSimple, Aurora Innovation, Embark, and Kodiak. Waabi, a new Toronto-based self-driving technology startup led by former Uber ATG chief scientist Raquel Urtasun, said its initial focus would be on long-haul transportation as well.
Waymo, which is developing autonomous trucks together with Daimler’s Freightliner unit, set up a truck depot in Dallas last year. It currently has a fleet of 47 large drilling rigs that are registered with the US Department of Transportation, after TuSimple’s 50 from San Diego exclusively on autonomous long-distance transport.
“We are very excited to be working with JB Hunt to further develop and commercialize the Waymo Driver,” said Charlie Jatt, director of commercialization, Trucking at Waymo. “It’s companies and relationships like this that will make this technology a commercial reality in the years to come.”
Waymo is the largest and most mature autonomous vehicle company in the United States, starting out as the Google Self-Driving Car Project in 2009. The companies did not disclose any financial details of their trucking partnership or identify commercial customers.