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Waymo entering self-driving trucks business with tests in Arizona

10 March 2018

Alphabet is expanding its self-driving arm, Waymo, beyond passenger vehicles into autonomous freight trucks. Waymo is now testing its driverless trucks in Atlanta, Georgia, by shipping cargo for its sister company, Google.

However, the pioneering venture of the self-driving industry has stiff competition in the field, including Uber, with the same challenges facing the passenger vehicle space - how can it commercialise the technology.

Recode reported, citing sources, Waymo has deployed several business strategies, but it does not have a built-in path to market, the way Uber does. The ride-hail company offered a trucking logistics platform, called Uber Freight, that matches commercial truck drivers with companies looking to ship cargo, around a year after its acquisition of self-driving trucking startup, Otto.

Uber's announcement that it had been shipping cargo for commercial partners in Phoenix, Arizona, since the beginning of this year came ealier this week. It is working with commercial truck drivers and shippers for this service.

According to commentators, Waymo enjoys a nine-year technological development lead over its competitors and is by far the most advanced autonomous company on the road and has the only driverless vehicles fleet in operation on public roads.

Meanwhile, Waymo said in blog post, ''Waymo's mission has always been to make it safe and easy for people and things to move around. So far, the focus has mostly been on people; last fall we put the world's first fleet of fully self-driving cars on public roads in the Phoenix area.''

''Now we're turning our attention to things as well. Starting next week, Waymo will launch a pilot in Atlanta where our self-driving trucks will carry freight bound for Google's data centers.''

''Over the past year, we've been conducting road tests of Waymo's self-driving trucks in California and Arizona. Our 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.''

''Now we're headed to Georgia. 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 our next phase of testing Waymo's self-driving trucks.''

''This pilot, in partnership with Google's logistics team, will let us further develop our technology and integrate it into the operations of shippers and carriers, with their network of factories, distribution centers, ports and terminals. As our self-driving trucks hit the highways in the region, we'll have highly-trained drivers in the cabs to monitor systems and take control if needed.''

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