Autonomous tech company Waymo plans to team up with trucking company J.B. Hunt to haul freight using trucks equipped with AV systems between Houston and Fort Worth along the I-45 corridor.
The test run will use Waymo Via, the company’s autonomous Class 8 trucking unit powered by Waymo Driver and will be supervised by Waymo autonomous specialists, a commercially licensed driver and a software technician, on board to monitor every aspect of the Waymo Driver’s operations throughout the runs.
“This will be one of the first opportunities for J.B. Hunt to receive data and feedback on customer freight moved with a Class 8 tractor operating at this level of autonomy,” said Craig Harper, chief sustainability officer and executive vice president at J.B. Hunt.
“While we believe there will be a need for highly skilled, professional drivers for many years to come, it is important for J.B. Hunt as an industry leader to be involved early in the development of advanced autonomous technologies and driving systems to ensure that their implementation will improve efficiency while enhancing safety.”
Partnership designed to see how tech can be integrated
Through the collaboration, J.B. Hunt and Waymo Via will be exploring how autonomous driving technology can be integrated across fleets and enhance safety and efficiency.
Waymo and J.B. Hunt have already worked closely on operational and market studies that examined topics such as best practices for regular maintenance, what future facility layouts will look like, and which lanes are best suited for autonomous driving technology that led up to the project.
The upcoming test will also help the pair define how they can continue working together long-term.
“We’re thrilled to collaborate with J.B. Hunt as we advance and commercialize the Waymo Driver,” said Charlie Jatt, head of commercialization for trucking at Waymo.
“Our teams share an innovative and safety-first mindset as well as a deep appreciation for the potential benefits of autonomous driving technology in trucking. It’s companies and relationships like these that will make this technology a commercial reality in the coming years.”
Old hat for Waymo
Waymo brings over a decade of experience in building autonomous driving technology, having driven more than 20 million miles on public roads across 10 U.S. states and 20 billion miles in simulation. J.B. Hunt operates one of the largest company-owned fleets in North America, and its technology platform.
Waymo has been a leader in self-driving vehicle technology for more than a decade but for more than a decade but like other companies with an interest in AV technology has been spurred by the pandemic in invest more in the freight-hauling side of the business, which offers the promise of better financial returns than robo-taxis.