Waymo to Pilot Autonomous Big Rigs in Atlanta

Waymo is testing self-driving trucks in Atlanta

On Friday, Waymo said it was starting to test self-driving trucks on highways and city streets around Atlanta. Waymo's trucks will be hauling cargo destined for Google's Atlanta-based data centres as part of the program. The trucks themselves will of course have trained safety drivers at the wheel as they roll down Georgia highways to monitor and assume control.

Rival Uber made a similar announcement on Tuesday, saying it is using self-driving semi trucks to augment human-driven rigs in its on-demand trucking service in the USA state of Arizona.

Waymo CEO John Krafcik has alluded to autonomous trucks before, and so the assumption was that the company would eventually pursue some kind of autonomous trucking service.

Waymo's, the former Google self-driving auto project, announced it is turning its attention to the trucking industry.

"Our software is learning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars", Waymo said in a blog post. Waymo's self-driving trucks use the same sensors and software as its self-driving minivans and cars, which have been taxiing people around California and Arizona without a driver since November. Although the basic principles of driving remain the same, driving a truck that's loaded down with cargo is trickier due to its size and different ways of handling. Last week, Uber announced that its autonomous trucks have been operating in Arizona for a couple months now. So we may see self-driving trucks on the roads before cars without drivers. According to the American Trucking Associations, trucking revenues were $676.2 billion in 2016, while trucks moved more than 10.4 billion tons of freight.

The latest installment, coming on the heels of a settled lawsuit between the two tech giants, involves self-driving truck testing.

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