Waymo To Partner With Uber Freight on Autonomous Logistics for the Trucking Industry

Waymo To Partner With Uber Freight on Autonomous Logistics for the Trucking Industry

Author: Eric Walz   

Alphabet's autonomous driving division Waymo, which spun out of Google's self-driving car project, aims to launch an autonomous ride hailing service that will rival Uber. But the company is also working on self-driving trucks and logistics as part of its Waymo Via division.

Now instead of competing, Waymo is partnering with Uber's logistics business unit Uber Freight, which would see the two rivals working together to transform the trucking industry using autonomous trucks and a greater level of utilization and efficiency.

Waymo is partnering with Uber Freight to connect its core autonomous driving technology with Uber's logistics platform and deploy its self-driving Class 8 trucks. Waymo Via's full stack autonomous driving system is called the "Waymo Driver" and it will be connected directly with Uber Freight's logistics platform, which matches shippers with available carriers as a more efficient way of shipping goods. 

Waymo refers to its Waymo Driver as the "The World's Most Experienced Driver". In 2020, the company announced it achieved freeway driving capabilities for its entire fleet of self-driving Class-8 trucks. The Waymo Driver serves as the foundation for all of Waymo's autonomous vehicle development. 

"Partnering with Uber Freight opens up really interesting opportunities for us to help scale the Waymo Driver," says Boris Sofman, Head of Engineering for Trucking, Waymo Via. "By combining the Waymo Via solution with the Uber Freight platform, we'll be able to apply proven marketplace technology to help carriers dynamically deploy the Waymo Driver where it's most valuable and most capable."

Eventually trucks equipped with the Waymo Driver will be able to opt-in to Uber Freight and be deployed on Uber' expanding logistics network, which can help maximize utilization, increase safety and help companies to grow their business. 

Both Waymo Via and Uber Freight are addressing the chronic shortage of drivers in the industry. The industry is poised to be transformed with autonomous trucks that can operate more safely and without the mandatory breaks that human drivers must take, which results in down time for long-haul trucks.

"Uber Freight's extensive, efficient and reliable digital network is essential to making autonomous trucks a reality," said Lior Ron, Head of Uber Freight. "We are uniquely positioned to be the preferred network for autonomous trucks, with the scale and the marketplace expertise to deploy autonomous trucks in a way that benefits the entire industry."

This partnership brings together the advanced technology of the Waymo Driver with the scale of Uber Freight's marketplace technology that will see the widescale deployment of the Waymo Driver on America's roads in trucks operating on the Uber Freight network. 

Waymo Via also intends to reserve billions of miles of its goods-only mileage for the Uber Freight network under this partnership, unlocking capacity at a time when many leading shippers are dealing with driver shortages. This will meaningfully impact the industry long term, according to Waymo.

In February, Waymo announced a separate partnership with Texas fleet operator C.H. Robinson Worldwide in which Waymo will deploy its self-driving trucks in Texas with safety drivers behind the wheel. C.H. Robinson is one of the early adopters of Waymo's automated trucking technology.

C.H. Robinson is one of the world's largest logistics platforms and a leader in freight delivery. The company has a network of nearly 200,000 shippers and carriers, as well as data on over 3 million lanes, which provides Waymo with valuable insights that can help the company scale its logistics technology more effectively. 

The partnership will initially include running multiple pilots for C.H. Robinson's customers by delivering freight between Dallas and Houston using Waymo's test fleet.

Many analysts predict that self-driving trucks carrying freight will appear on highways well before self-driving vehicles that carry passengers. 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.

The two companies envision a future where autonomous trucks can be deployed safely and more efficiently, and at scale across a digital and optimized network that Uber Freight is continuously building out. 

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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