There have been multiple reports that Waymo is testing self-driving trucks. As per its chief product officer Daniel Chu, the company is really excited about long haul trucking opportunity as there is a lot of demand in this large industry.
Trucking is the cornerstone for the economy, a successful driverless program in this industry can bring Waymo to new heights. According to Waymo, they have been working on this program since 2017 and there is already a pilot program with Google, shipping their data center parts in Atlanta.
Waymo’s driverless ride-hailing service has been exceptional. They had over 20,000 people signup to this program in just a matter of days recently. Its a true driverless experience, you open your mobile app and submit request for pickup. The car will show up without any driver and take the riders to their destination. This is the future that we have been waiting for, though this program is limited to Phoenix only and will be rolling out in other areas soon.
As per Waymo, there will not be a big nationwide launch, their plan is more gradual going from city to city in an incremental fashion. They’ve been testing their driverless cars in over 25 cities, recently they also started testing in Miami and Los Angeles. Rigorous testing is definitely one of the most important part of this technology. The main reason for slow rollout is safety, its the main priority for the company according to them.
If we look at the history of the project, they’ve had their first autonomous driverless car ride in Austin, and then it was expanded to a fleet of vehicles in 2017 and then the Waymo One was launched last year, its all incremental. Now, long haul trucking and deliveries is their next target.
The benefits of going driverless can be extraordinary. Looking at the road safety, more than a million lives are lost in road accidents every year in US, and if we look at it on global basis, then it becomes one of the leading causes of death. Despite all car safety features in modern cars, the number of causalities have been going up in recent years. So driverless technology can truly be game-changer when it comes to road-safety.
There have been concerns about people losing their jobs to robo cars. If we look at history of our industrial civilization, there have always been jobs that are lost in the transition. For example, in early 1900s more than 11 million people worked in agriculture industry in the US, but now its less than 2 million people as most of the heavy lifting is done by machines. Evolution in technology may eliminate some old jobs, but it also creates new jobs, like in this case, an EV technician.
Autonomous cars are going to be good news for 20-30 million Americans who aren’t able to get driving licenses for a number of reasons. Particularly older folks will be much pleased.