Just months after settling a legal battle over self-driving technology, Waymo is forming a “deep, long-term partnership” with Uber Freight to transport goods in its self-driving trucks from Dallas to Houston on Interstate 45.
Under the deal, carriers using Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo self-driving technology will be able to join Uber Freight’s network, which acts as a broker between truckers and transportation companies. The companies said they would also be working on a service to provide “easy and fast transfers between” autonomous systems and human drivers.
The California subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., is already testing its large self-driving platforms on the road as part of its normal operations, but intends to make the loads available on the Uber Freight platform. over the coming year, Waymo said. spokesperson Julianna McGoldrick.
“At this time, there are still two autonomous specialists on board to monitor the system in autonomous mode,” McGoldrick said. “We will transition to cargo-only operations and begin phasing out stand-alone specialists in the next few years.”
In February, Uber ended its self-driving technology after a lawsuit from Waymo, which said a former engineer who became head of Uber’s self-driving car project took thousands of confidential documents with him. Uber paid Waymo $245 million in stock as part of a settlement.
Lior Ron, head of Uber Freight, said the company’s digital network is making “self-driving trucks a reality”. Uber Freight, launched in 2017, allows drivers and carriers to connect, with “upfront pricing” allowing companies to plan their journeys.
“We are uniquely positioned to be the preferred network for self-driving trucks, with the scale and market expertise to deploy self-driving trucks in a way that benefits the entire industry,” Ron said in a statement.
Trucking is one of the main applications of self-driving technology that investors consider a commercial success.
In February, Waymo announced a partnership with CH Robinson, which carries 20 million shipments a year.
Trucker shortages existed even before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the American Trucking Association estimated a historic high shortage of just over 80,000 drivers. By 2030, the association estimates that these numbers could exceed 160,000.
In addition to Texas, Waymo is testing self-driving trucks in Arizona, New Mexico and California. Other companies doing autonomous vehicle testing in D-FW and Texas include Amazon-backed autonomous vehicle company Aurora, San Diego-based company TuSimple, and Kodiak Robotics.
Bloomberg contributed information to this story.