Technology

A first business partner for Waymo Via’s self-driving trucks

Waymo announced on January 14, 2022 that it had entered into a long-term partnership with JB Hunt, an American freight forwarding company, on autonomous trucks. Specifically, the Alphabet subsidiary that focuses on the development of autonomous driving technology is deepening its relationship with JB Hunt announced last June.

The two partners are discussing a long-term strategic alliance to commercialize autonomous driving technology for trucks. JB Hunt will be the first commercial customer for Waymo Via, the Waymo division that focuses specifically on self-driving freight trucks. Waymo adds that it wants to start rolling out fully autonomous business operations in Texas in the next few years.

continue testing
Waymo Via and JB Hunt have already conducted tests in 2021. Autonomous trucks, supervised by a driver and a technician, delivered goods between Houston and Fort Worth, Texas. The partners talk about “the success of their latest pilot.” Other test operations in Texas should be launched in the coming months. In particular, the companies are looking to take a closer look at Waymo Via’s operational capability in long-distance and last-mile delivery. The goal is to understand how this autonomous driving technology can best meet customer needs.

“Our trial last year with Waymo Via really helped us understand how self-driving technology can be implemented in our operations,” says Craig Harper, director of sustainability for JB Hunt. This strategic alliance will build on that momentum and further explore delve into the intricate details that will make it a value-driven solution for customers.”

The partners will also explore the integration of Waymo’s self-driving technology with JB Hunt and JB Hunt 360. The goal is to offer Waymo’s self-driving technology in the best possible way in the JB Hunt 360 market.

very strong competition
In the United States, freight transportation is suffering from a labor shortage that has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Autonomous driving technology could be an answer to this shortage. Many start-ups are embarking on just such a project: developing self-driving technology that can be integrated into trucks that travel long distances on roads that are easier to navigate than those in urban areas.

TuSimple appealed to logistics providers DHL and UPS, Ryder and Volkswagen; Aurora has reached out to Volvo, Uber Freight and FedEX. Kodiak Robotics, Einride, Embark or even Plus.ai, the list of startups developing such technology is constantly growing.

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