Google’s Waymo kicks off early testing of self-driving trucks: Report

5 Jun

By  Anmol Sachdeva, The Tech Portal

With self-driving vehicles slated to become a definite reality in the next couple years, the tech and automobile giants are no longer only looking to outfit cars with this technology. Some of these, like Uber and Waymo, have already kicked off on-road public trials of these cars and now plan on introducing the same autonomous capabilities in semi-trucks as well.

While Uber has already acquired a self-driving truck venture, Otto, and conducted a handful of trials across the U.S, its fiercest rival Waymo has now also been spotted testing its own autonomous semi-trucks on road. In a fresh report, BuzzFeed News claims that it has spotted Waymo’s self-driving truck in a photograph and then confirmed the existence of the same with the spin-off venture.

In addition to confirming the company’s self-driving truck efforts, the Waymo spokesperson went ahead to dole out some details on the said project. Waymo is currently testing just one vehicle at the moment and that too isn’t being driven by itself. The truck has to be manually driven on public roads to collect massive amounts of data. It is necessary for Google’s spin-off effort — Waymo to again collect data for its trucking venture because if the difference in the build of the vehicles. The system needs to learn about the space it will need to make a stop or turn when required.

Continuing to talk about its latest efforts, a Waymo spokesperson in a statement said:

Self-driving technology can transport people and things much more safely than we do today and reduce the thousands of trucking-related deaths each year. We’re taking our eight years of experience in building self-driving hardware and software and conducting a technical exploration into how our technology can integrate into a truck.

Uber has already sketched out its plan to redefine the trucking business with the acquisition of self-driving truck startup Otto for a hefty $680 million earlier last year. But, this trucking company is currently the center of attraction in a lawsuit battle against Waymo — who alleged that its former executive and Otto co-founder, Anthony Levandowski, stole a treasure trove of confidential info — that too about 14,000 files or total 9.7GB worth of data. He has, however, now been ousted from the ride-hailing giant for not cooperating with the Judge’s order and Uber’s request to hand over the stolen data.

While it is not directly debuting self-driving trucks to its fleet, it has already launched a mobile app ‘Uber Freight‘ to remove the middlemen and simplify the booking process for drivers — presently in the United States. This will lay the groundwork for its more ambitious self-driving plans, which it has already shown off with a delivery of beer cans across Colorado.

Uber’s Otto packed around 50,000 cans of Budweiser in an 18-wheeler truck that drove itself from Loveland, Colorado to Colorado Springs. Uber’s autonomous truck drove at an average speed of 55 miles per hour and the whole drive passed without any hitch. A state trooper was even following the truck to monitor its progress. The delivery was successful but Uber isn’t ready to roll out the technology as of yet.