Alphabet's Autonomous Driving Division Waymo to Partner with Daimler on Self-Driving Class-8 Trucks
The auto industry's race to develop self-driving cars also includes long-haul self-driving trucks, which have the potential to make highway travel safer and the transport of goods much more efficient and cost effective.
One of the leaders in this effort is Waymo, the autonomous driving division of parent company Alphabet. Waymo has been working on self-driving vehicles for over a decade, beginning with Google's first self-driving car project, which the company spun out of. Now the company is extending its reach in a new partnership with Germany's Daimler Trucks, the parent company of Class-8 truck manufacturer Freightliner.
Alphabet's autonomous driving division Waymo has announced a global partnership with Daimler Trucks in which Waymo will integrate its advanced autonomous driving stack it calls "Waymo Driver" into Class 8 trucks from Freightliner.
Freightliner is one of the most recognizable and largest manufacturers of large, commercial trucks and the big rigs are a familiar sight on interstate highways in the U.S.
Waymo refers to its Waymo Driver as the "The World's Most Experienced Driver" and the company remains one of the industry leaders in the development of autonomous driving technology. To date, Waymo has logged over 20 million miles of driving with its fleet of self-driving cars and over 15 billion miles in computer simulation.
Now this same core technology will be integrated into Freightliner Cascadia Class-8 trucks to enable fully autonomous driving.
"Daimler Trucks is the pioneer of automated trucking. In recent years, we have achieved significant progress on our global roadmap to bringing series-produced highly automated trucks to the road. With our strategic partnership with Waymo as the leader in autonomous driving, we are taking another important step towards that goal," said Martin Daum, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler Truck AG and Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG.
Earlier this month, Waymo announced it achieved freeway driving capabilities for its entire fleet.
These fully autonomous Freightliner trucks equipped with the Waymo Driver will be available to U.S. customers in the coming years, the companies said.
Waymo and Daimler will also explore expansion into other geographies and brands in the near future to improve road safety and efficiency for fleet customers, the companies said.
Waymo outfits its autonomous trucks with custom-built sensor suite for safe operation.
Waymo's self-driving technology has the potential to bring a level of safety to the industry that cannot be achieved by human drivers alone. Each of Waymo's trucks are outfitted with the same systems that self-driving vehicles rely on, including long-range cameras, lidar and radar systems. Rather than installing the hardware on a production vehicle that's already been manufactured, Waymo is working directly with truck manufacturers like Freightliner to integrate its Waymo Driver seamlessly into the Class-8 trucks during production.
"We have the highest regard for Daimler's engineering skills and broad global truck product portfolio, and so we look forward to scaling the Waymo Driver, together with our new partner, to improve road safety and logistics efficiency on the worlds' roadways," said John Krafcik, Chief Executive Officer of Waymo.
Waymo is already working on driverless trucks as part of a commercial freight delivery business called Waymo Via. The company has been working on the technology since 2017. Before the partnership was announced with Daimler, Waymo has been testing its self-driving trucks on public roads in California, Georgia, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Daimler was also developing self-driving trucks on its own, but the partnership with Waymo will help the company accelerate the development of the technology. Waymo said that its fine tuning the algorithms its uses for its self-driving cars to better support operating large and heavy Class-8 trucks at highway speeds.
Some analysts predict that self-driving trucks will appear on roads long before self-driving passenger vehicles. From an engineering standpoint, developing an autonomous truck for highway driving is much less complex compared to passenger vehicles or robotaxis capable of navigating city streets that are packed with other vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.
To address the requirements for highway driving, Waymo developed a long range perception system for its trucks. The Waymo Driver for trucks can identify objects on the road at greater distances, which allows it to respond earlier and maneuver more smoothly if needed.
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