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Google to use Waymo’s autonomous trucks to deliver data center cargo

Google said on Friday that it plans to use Waymo’s self-driving trucks to deliver cargo to Google’s data centers.

The transport tests will take place in Atlanta, where Google-owned Waymo recently expanded its test program of self-driving minivans. Google’s logistics team will work closely with Waymo’s team to give Waymo’s self-driving trucks a chance to operate in a real-world business scenario.

Waymo announced its push into autonomous trucking a year ago and has since been testing its fleet in California and Arizona. The trucking endeavor taps into much of the same technology used in Waymo’s cars and minivans, but tuned to the complexities of operating a big rig on a roadway.

“Our software is learning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars,” Waymo wrote in a blog post. “The principles are the same, but things like braking, turning, and blind spots are different with a fully-loaded truck and trailer.”

In 2017, Waymo began offering rides to residents in an early rider program in Phoenix. Georgia is now the seventh state for Waymo’s tests, joining pilots in California, Texas, Washington, Nevada, Michigan, and Arizona.

Earlier this year, Waymo ordered thousands of new Chrysler Pacifica minivans in the hope of launching a driverless ride-hailing service sometime this year. The vehicles are the first to attain a Level 4 in autonomy, which the Society of Automotive Engineers stipulates as a “high level” but not fully autonomous.

The Waymo trucks also appear to be in the Level 4 realm, as the company said that drivers will remain in the cab during the tests in order to monitor systems and take control of the vehicle if needed.

“In short, our near-decade of experience with passenger vehicles has given us a head start in trucking,” Waymo wrote in its blog post. “Trucking is a vital part of the American economy, and we believe self-driving technology has the potential to make this sector safer and even stronger.”

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