Self-driving taxis by Waymo are already in operation in parts of Phoenix and San Francisco. More U.S. cities are to be added to that list in the near future.
Waymo LLC is an American autonomous driving technology development company. It is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google.
Waymo operates a commercial self-driving taxi service in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area called “Waymo One”, with Chandler, Arizona fully mapped.
However, concurrent with Waymo’s passenger service, the company is also developing a self-driving service for the delivery of goods.
Called Waymo Via, the delivery service is already in operation in some parts using Waymo’s self-driving vans based on the Chrysler Pacifica.
Now Waymo is ready to add its self-driving semi-trailer trucks. The Class 8 trucks being used will be based on Peter bilts. Over the next several weeks, the self-driving trucks will operate on a trial basis, transporting goods for UPS between hubs in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston.
The trial will be used to gather data, particularly in the areas of safety and efficiency. The data will then be used to determine how the service can be scaled.
Waymo has previously conducted a similar trial with transport company J.B. Hunt. There was also a rival company by the name of Otto, which previously tested the transport of goods using self-driving trucks. Otto was acquired by Uber in 2016 but was put on ice two years later. Uber eventually sold its enter self-driving division to Aurora in 2020.
Waymo’s vehicles are controlled by a self-driving system called the Waymo Driver. The system ranks at Level 4 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability, as it can function entirely on its own but only within set conditions. Level 5 is the final goal, which would mean a self-driving system as capable as a human.
Self-driving trucks are enabled by radar, cameras, and lidar, just like cars, but their demands are greater. Their mass needs to be taken into account, as well as the articulation of their trailers, and their different driving characteristics.