Waymo, the autonomous vehicle arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet, says it will be releasing self-driving trucks onto the streets of Atlanta.
The vehicles will carry cargo around the region for Google’s data centers.
The announcement comes two days after rival Uber Technologies said its self-driving trucks will haul cargo on Arizona highways.
And, Elon Musk shared a photo this week of Tesla’s electric big rigs in the parking lot of the firm’s Gigafactory, ahead of their first cargo run to the California factory.
Waymo has been road testing its self-driving trucks in California and Arizona over the last year, since announcing them in July 2017.
Waymo, the autonomous vehicle division of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced today that its self-driving trucks will be tested on Atlanta highways. The vehicles will haul cargo for Google’s data centers in the region
‘As our self-driving trucks hit the highways in the region, we will have highly-trained drivers in the cabs to monitor systems and take control if needed,’ Waymo said in a blog post.
A slew of companies are now racing to perfect self-driving vehicle technologies.
Autonomous vehicles offer a multi-billion-dollar opportunity to remake urban transportation systems, and companies ranging from Tesla and Apple to traditional car makers such as Ford and General Motors are vying to dominate the market.
Waymo, which is among the leaders for this technology, expects autonomous vehicles to be able to take over longer distance trucking in the coming years, while allowing human drivers to handle local pickup and delivery routes.
People will be riding in the self-driving semis on Atlanta’s streets, monitoring the trucks. A statement from Waymo said they will be in place to take control of the vehicles if the need arises
‘If you are in the Atlanta area, look for a bright blue Waymo truck making a run,’ Waymo said.
The company’s statement explained that the software behind its self-driving passenger vehicles was adapted to allow its big rigs to operate without a driver.
Waymo said: ‘The principles are the same, but things like braking, turning and blind spots are different with a fully-loaded truck and trailer.
‘Our self-driving trucks use the same suite of custom built sensors that power our self-driving minivan.
The technology used in Waymo’s self-driving passenger cars was implemented into the development of the company’s semis. The company said the adaptable technology helped expedite the development of its self-driving trucks, which were announced to the public in July
‘They benefit from the same advanced self-driving software that has enabled our cars to go fully driverless in Arizona.’
The company chose Atlanta as its testing platform because Google’s logistical operations are located there.
Waymo said the self-driving trucks’ test runs on Atlanta roads will help the company develop their technology further.
It also explained that the move will help Waymo integrate its technology into shipping and carrying operations, factories, ports, distribution centers and terminals.
HOW DOES WAYMO TEST ITS SELF-DRIVING CARS BEFORE PUTTING THEM ON PUBLIC ROADS?
Waymo built ‘Castle,’ a hidden mock city that can quickly be configured to test different scenarios.
It’s located north of the Merced metro area where the Castle Air Force Base used to be an has been rented by Google since 2014.
As part of the initial two-year lease, the firm rented 80 acres from Merced Country for $456,000, being paid in $19,000 monthly installments.
It has different driving environments including residential streets, expressway-style streets, cul-de-sacs, and parking lots.
The Waymo test site is located north of the Merced metro area, where the Castle Air Force Base used to be
At Castle, the roads are named after famous cars, such as DeLorean, Bullitt, Thunderbird, Fury, and Barbaro.
For the structured testing, Waymo looks at how self-driving cars perform on real roads to determine how they need to practice – then they build what’s required at Castle.
The fake city has no buildings except one – a converted military dorm Waymo employees sleep in when they’re too tired to make it back to San Francisco.
It’s hidden, and you need GPS coordinates to find it.
Castle is located north of the Merced metro area where the Castle Air Force Base used to be, 2.5 hours from the company’s headquarters. There, Waymo is testing several types of self-driving cars, including Chysler Pacificas minivans