Waymo, the former Google self-driving project that spun out to become a business under parent company Alphabet, is scaling up. Literally, in this case – from self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans to autonomous Class 8 semi-trucks.
The company announced Friday it plans to use its self-driving trucks to deliver freight bound for Google’s data centers in Atlanta.
Waymo CEO John Krafcik has alluded to autonomous trucks before, and so the assumption was that the company would eventually pursue some kind of autonomous trucking service. It wasn’t clear that the company had already been testing it.
Waymo revealed Friday it integrated its self-driving system into Class 8 big rig trucks and has already been testing in California and Arizona.
The company announced in January plans to take its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans to Atlanta, the 25th city for Waymo to test its autonomous vehicle technology in since 2009. Waymo has been testing vehicles in Texas, Arizona, Washington State, Nevada, California and launched winter testing on public roads in Michigan.
Self-driving trucks and an autonomous ride-hailing service are the two commercial pursuits that make the most business sense. It’s why so many companies, including Embark, Uber, Starsky Robotics, and TuSimple are targeting autonomous trucking.
On Thursday, Starsky Robotics announced it drove its truck seven miles on a public highway in Florida without a human test driver. Other companies have had longer self-driving routes, but the trucks always had a human in the cab. Starsky, which also announced a Series A funding round of $16.5 million led by Shasta Ventures, did not have anyone in the truck’s cab.