Waymo's self-driving trucks are carrying cargo for ... Google

Waymo's self-driving trucks are carrying cargo for ... Google

Waymo says that starting next week it will run self-driving rigs in the Atlanta area with human backup drivers.

Google-owned Waymo on Friday said that its self-driving trucks will haul cargo bound for the internet giant's data centres in Georgia. Human drivers will be on board Waymo trucks to take control if needed.

Waymo driverless trucks will go to work in the Atlanta area Monday as part of a pilot programme meant to help integrate autonomous big rigs with the operations of shippers, ports, terminals, factories, and distribution centres, according to the company.

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". "The principles are the same, but things like braking, turning, and blind spots are different with a fully-loaded truck and trailer".

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Google's Waymo has been testing autonomous vehicles for quite some time, so it's taking the next logical step by shifting the technology over to trucks.

Waymo says it uses the same technology for its trucks, so it's a good guess that the company is aiming to achieve the same level of autonomy for its trucking fleet. The software is also the same and it benefits from having driven five million miles on public roads and over five billion miles in simulations. Another startup called Embark has been hauling real cargo with autonomous trucks (and a safety driver behind the wheel) since last fall. It's doing this through the same way you'd each anyone with passenger auto driving experience on how to drive a semi truck.

Waymo believes self-driving technology has the potential to make this sector safer and more efficient. The other three companies we've mentioned-Uber, Starsky, and Embark-have all focused on freeway driving, which is generally considered the easiest type of driving to automate.

The race is heating up to remove the driver and get autonomous freight trucks on the road.

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