After cars, Waymo has now started testing autonomous truck technology, according to BuzzFeed News. BuzzFeed stated that it first got its hands on a photo of Waymo’s self-driving truck and later got confirmation from the company about the project.
A spokesperson from Alphabet’s self-driving car company (and a Google spin-off) stated that they have been working for over eight years to build self-driving technology by developing hardware and software. Now they are using the same experience to conduct a technical exploration to understand how the technology can be used in trucks to reduce the thousands of truck-related accidents that happen every year.
“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,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed.
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According to Waymo, truck driving is one of “the deadliest” occupations in America, where over 4,000 people die and 116,000 more are injured every year due to accidents involving trucks. By bringing autonomous technology to heavy trucks, the company wants to reduce the driver shortage, which according to American Trucking Association data, stands at about 50,000 drivers currently.
The autonomous truck is the latest from Waymo in the series of autonomous vehicle experiments that it has been conducting for some time now. Some of them include the pilot program with Uber’s rival Lyft and a large-scale public rider program in Phoenix, where residents are allowed to travel in a self-driving car. Waymo has also struck vehicle supply deals with FCA’s Chrysler and Honda for technical partnership.
According to BuzzFeed, Waymo is currently field testing the technology, deploying just one manually-driven truck in public roads for data collection purposes. As of now, it is not clear as to what the end result will be.
Uber ahead when it comes to self-driving trucks
Rival Uber has already laid out plans for its own trucking business since it acquired the self-driving truck startup Otto for a hefty $680 million last year. The ride-sharing firm has already launched a mobile app called Uber Freight to remove the middleman and ease the booking process for drivers. As of now, the app has been launched in the United States.
Currently, both companies are involved in a legal battle with Waymo, which claims that one of its former employees was given a high position at Uber and stole confidential information (as many as 14,000 files amounting to 9.7GB worth of data). Anthony Levandowski, the employee in question, was ousted from Uber for not cooperating and following the court’s orders. The case, if it goes against Uber, has the potential to derail its self-driving efforts.
Several reports have suggested that taxi drivers will have a tough time keeping their jobs, but according to Goldman Sachs research, it is truck drivers who will be hurt the most if machines start replacing drivers. The research indicated that there would be approximately 25,000 jobs lost per month or 300,000 per year approximately 25 years from now, notes the DailyMail.