For this pilot program, Waymo is teaching its software, that has become accustomed to driving cars, how to manage the increased challenge of managing a truck.
Self-driving tractor-trailer trucks have begun delivering cargo in the Atlanta area, Waymo, Google Inc.'s vehicle subsidiary, announced Friday. Waymo wouldn't say how many trucks are being tested, but it released pictures showing two blue semis.
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Waymo is teaming up with sister company Google's logistics team to "develop our technology and integrate it into the operations of shippers and carriers, with their network of factories, distribution centers, ports and terminals".
To be clear, this isn't the first time Waymo has tested their semi trucks in public - the company is well aware of the many differences between driving a semi truck and driving a traditional minivan.
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The company explained that its software is "learning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars". "The principles are the same, but things like braking, turning, and blind spots are different with a fully-loaded truck and trailer". Unlike Uber, Waymo will use its truck for internal business and has no intention of leasing them out to third-party companies. In January, Google brought its self-driving cars and minivans to Atlanta for testing and mapping. "And our engineers and AI experts are leveraging the same five million miles we've already self-driven on public roads, plus the five billion miles we've driven in simulation". Even though most of those miles were for passenger vehicles, the firm says almost a decade of experience gives it a head start in trucking. These lessons could eventually be applied to other companies who use trucks with Waymo's technology. Another startup called Embark has been hauling real cargo with autonomous trucks (and a safety driver behind the wheel) since last fall.
Trucking is a vital part of the American economy.
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Waymo is poised to change how we get a ride and now the company is focusing on how we get various goods.