Waymo Refocuses on Semis, Heads Back to Phoenix for Testing

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
waymo refocuses on semis heads back to phoenix for testing

Alphabet’s Waymo probably operates the most successful autonomous fleet in North America right now. While we can debate its technical prowess versus its rivals forever, it’s still one of the only companies offering a commercial taxi service using autonomous vehicles in North America. It also has an enviable safety record.

The company has also worked on adapting the technology for Class 8 trucks, testing such units previously in California, Atlanta, and Arizona. Recently, the company tweeted that self-driving semis would soon return for more testing in Phoenix — where it runs its Pacifica-based early rider program — as the company places a renewed emphasis on their development.

“Our fully self-driving trucks are returning to Arizona to continue testing on Phoenix-area freeways,” the company announced. “Let us know what you think if you see them on the road!”

Waymo says its current goals include expanding its existing taxi services beyond Phoenix while rejiggering its technologies to work with semi trucks. The firm said the larger vehicles will use much of the hardware already found on its Pacifica vans, with a pair of operators tasked with conducting more extensive testing than was previously possible in Arizona.

While that brings 3.5 million truck drivers one step closer to employment Armageddon, experts have begun to suggest that large self-driving vehicles will likely need a safety operator to handle emergencies and a team to conduct regular maintenance procedures and safety inspections. Early autonomous systems will only be able to navigate highways and, even as they grow more advanced, won’t be able to handle things like a flat tire or extreme weather conditions. Ultimately, that means fewer ended careers than previously anticipated. However, it seems unlikely that the swap to autonomous deliveries won’t still result in the shipping industry hemorrhaging jobs over the next few decades.

[Images: Waymo]

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  • Tonyd Tonyd on Jun 01, 2019

    If all class 8 truckers had a 9 to 5 job. 9PM to 5 AM that is. No need for dedicated lanes. These auto trucks won't be doing .1 mph passes that some drivers think is "professional".

  • Akear Akear on Jun 01, 2019

    Why is the press wasting so much print on autonomous vehicles. This technology is never going to see the light of day as a mainstream technology. Maybe the people on Wall Street are inventing the next big thing so they have something to invest in. This seems pretty reminiscent of the dot com boom of the mid 90s. We all know how that turned out.

    • See 1 previous
    • Akear Akear on Jun 02, 2019

      @stuki Sounds like something Ayn Rand would have said.

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