Waymo puts driverless truck program on hold
Autonomous driving tech company Waymo on Wednesday said it plans to “push back the timeline on our commercial and operational efforts on trucking, as well as most of our technical development on that business unit,” and focus on its autonomous ride-hailing business.
Waymo, Google parent Alphabet’s autonomous driving division, had forged strong partnerships in trucking, including the public testing of the first-ever redundant autonomous Class 8 trucking platform across Phoenix and Dallas with Daimler Truck North America (DTNA) just 11 months ago. The two companies – who in October 2020 announced a global strategic partnership – had autonomy earmarked as a potential solution to several trucking-specific problems, namely safety and capacity.
Waymo also found partners in Uber Freight, J.B. Hunt and UPS, and partnered with Ryder in 2021 on a fleet management services deal, with Ryder providing fleet maintenance, inspections and roadside assistance across all Waymo hubs and testing sites
Waymo said it would continue collaboration with DTNA to advance technical development of an autonomous truck platform.
“Both our companies share the common goal of improving road safety and efficiency for fleet customers, so we’ll follow through with the platform investments we’ve made to create a redundant chassis to facilitate autonomous trucking,” the company said. “We look forward to continuing to bring together our autonomous tech with DTNA’s autonomous-ready Freightliner Cascadia platform and exploring the potential of future platforms.
Its ongoing investment in advancing the capabilities of its hardware and software suite known as the Waymo Driver, especially on freeway, will directly translate to trucking and benefit its development efforts, the company added.
“Our goal is to set our company on a solid path of value creation by focusing on achieving commercial success for our ride-hailing business in the near term. We are rapidly improving the Driver, shaping and overcoming hurdles in the regulatory landscape, and testing use cases that will provide valuable insights for partners in the long run. We continue to see a significant future commercial opportunity for our trucking solution alongside other commercial applications of the Waymo Driver. Laser-focusing on ride-hailing today puts us, our partners, and our customers in a strong position to be successful in the future across all of the business lines we pursue over time, showcasing the breadth of the Waymo Driver.”
Waymo said it continues to seek development of a generalizable, fully autonomous Driver – the Waymo Driver – designed to integrate with a variety of vehicle platforms and commercial applications including ride-hailing, trucking, local delivery and personal car ownership.
“Given the tremendous momentum and substantial commercial opportunity we’re seeing on the ride-hailing front, we’ve made the decision to focus our efforts and investment on ride-hailing,” the company said. “We’re iterating more quickly than ever on our technology by pushing forward state of the art (artificial intelligence/machine learning), and seeing significant business growth and rider demand in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.”