In the wake of Uber’s fatal self-driving car crash, it appears that the public is a little wary of the automated vehicle market.
But there are a few companies still vying to be that standard bearer, one of them being Waymo. The company made headlines when it recently announced plans to let self-driving trucks loose on the roads in Georgia. According to the The Washington Post, the new autonomous big rigs will be delivering cargo to Google data centers.
This is just the latest development in an ongoing storyline, as the Google-backed automotive venture has made significant progress in recent months developing autonomous trucks, cars, and taxis. A fleet of 600 autonomous Waymo taxis has been on the roads since November, and trucks are a natural next step in the progression. The company has been testing self-driving trucks in California and Arizona this year, and it’s now ready to ramp up those operations.
“Our software is learning to drive big rigs in much the same way a human driver would after years of driving passenger cars,” Waymo said in a statement. “The principles are the same, but things like braking, turning, and blind spots are different with a fully-loaded truck and trailer.”
While Waymo has made considerable progress, it will have a great deal of competition in the autonomous vehicle industry. The Washington Post also reported that Florida startup Starsky Robotics has plans to make deliveries with driverless trucks by the end of this year. Additionally, fellow startup Embark recently sent a driverless truck on a cross-country trip, and of course, Uber has plans to carry freight using automated big rigs as well.
The rise of driverless trucks has raised questions about the future of the trucking workforce. We very well could see the truck driver occupation become obsolete in the near future. Data from the American Trucking Associations shows that the average age of today’s truck driver is 49, with fewer and fewer young people entering the field.