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Waymo's self-driving tech spreads to semi trucks

09 March 2018

If you live in Atlanta and see one of Waymo's big blue trucks, then, you can rest assured that it isn't operating completely autonomously yet.

Today, Waymo, which is Alphabet's self-driving company, announced a pilot program located in Atlanta to further test its autonomous technology. 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.

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Waymo had been road testing its self-driving trucks in California and Arizona over the past year, since making it public in July 2017. As our self-driving trucks hit the highways in the region, we'll have highly-trained drivers in the cabs to monitor systems and take control if needed.

The new project, which will be developed in partnership with Google's logistics operations, will look into the ways self-driving trucks can integrate with distribution networks and shippers, including factories, ports and terminals. Waymo has installed its self-drive system and some of the same sensors used on its driverless Chrysler Pacifica minivans to enable the Peterbilt Class 8 Semis to drive themselves.

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The company explained that its software is "learning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars". Waymo says the "principles are the same, but things like braking, turning, and blind spots are different with a fully-loaded truck and trailer". Interestingly, the company said it now has nearly 10 years of experience in self-driving passenger vehicles, which it will leverage for its autonomous trucks.

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Waymo's self-driving tech spreads to semi trucks