Waymo’s Path To Robot Truck Business Means Mastering Wind, Flares And Pedestrians On The Highway

1 Oct 2021


News

Waymo, Alphabet Inc.’s autonomous driving company, is vague on exactly when semis controlled by its technology will be hauling cargo—without drivers—across the U.S., but has a detailed list of challenges to be mastered first, ranging from rough winds and slick roads, stray pedestrians on the highway and figuring out how robot trucks can deploy safety flares when they have to pull over.

The company’s robotaxis have been hauling paying passengers in suburban Phoenix for the past few years and just won permission from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to charge for on-demand rides in electric Jaguar crossovers in San Francisco and San Mateo County. But the launch of commercial trucking through its Waymo Via unit is probably a few years off, owing to tricky rules on top of technical challenges, according to the team’s leaders.

“At the federal level there are some unique requirements that are really written for human-driven trucks today. For example, deploying emergency road flares on the road while you’re pulled over on a shoulder,” says Charlie Jatt, Waymo’s head of commercialization for trucking. He’s tight-lipped on how that will be solved but conceded it probably won’t be with a “robot cannon shooting out flares.”

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