Autonomous vehicle developer Waymo announced it will begin a pilot program in Atlanta, Georgia, testing self-driving trucks carrying freight bound for Google data centers. According to the company, Atlanta is one of the biggest logistics hubs in the country, making it a natural home for Google’s logistical operations and the perfect environment for the next phase of testing Waymo’s self-driving trucks.
Waymo is Google’s autonomous vehicle controls division.
This pilot, in partnership with Google’s logistics team, will allow Waymo to further develop its autonomous truck technology and integrate it into the operations of shippers and carriers, as well as the network of factories, distribution centers, ports and terminals those carriers serve.
The company says the pilot program will be conducted with highly trained drivers in the truck cabs to monitor systems and take control if needed.
Waymo notes it has been conducting road tests of self-driving trucks in California and Arizona, and says its vehicle control software is now “learning” to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars. The company notes that while the overall principles are the same, things such as braking, turning, and blind spots are different with a fully loaded truck and trailer.
In a recent blog post outlining its new pilot program attributed to the Waymo Team, the company noted that, “Waymo’s self-driving technology is not only experienced, but adaptable. Our self-driving trucks use the same suite of custom-built sensors that power our self-driving minivan. They benefit from the same advanced self-driving software that has enabled our cars to go fully driverless in Arizona. And our engineers and AI experts are leveraging the same 5 million miles we’ve already self-driven on public roads, plus the 5 billion miles we’ve driven in simulation. In short, our near-decade of experience with passenger vehicles has given us a head start in trucking.”
Waymo has not yet released details on the length of the routes the trucks will take or what types of cargo will be hauled.