Waymo set to test self-driving trucks in Phoenix

After successful testing of its ride-sharing vans, which are expected to deploy in the Phoenix area soon, Waymo is now tapping the same region to test its self-driving freight trucks.

This is yet another example of how Arizona is increasingly becoming ground zero for testing of autonomous vehicle technology. Waymo has already tested out its self-driving Class 8 trucks in Arizona, seeing them hit the road in August of 2017 for a few months. Those trials were geared toward gathering initial data around driving trucks in the region and this new round of testing will be the next stage in its attempt to expand on the development of the technology as a whole.

Testing will be conducted on freeways around metro Phoenix and will look to expand beyond that region over time. Trucks will either be empty or filled with freight in order to assess effects on things like energy use and data collection. Each truck will have two drivers on hand to take over just in case something goes wrong.

Waymo has been testing its self-driving trucks in other cities in the United States, including San Francisco and Atlanta, with plans to use its autonomous trucks to deliver freight meant for Google’s data centers in Atlanta. But it’s Waymo’s presence here in Arizona that continues to put our state on the map as a haven for autonomous vehicle testing.

“It’s become fairly well known that under Gov. Ducey and this legislature that the state has become even more business friendly than in the past,” Steve Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council said. “We’re becoming this hub of autonomous vehicle activity. There are several other companies testing here as well, like grocery delivery, and there’s a lot of this going on. It creates jobs and builds out an ecosystem.”

The week before last, self-driving truck startup TuSimple announced its partnership with the United States Postal Service (USPS) to test out two 24-hour hauls between Dallas and Phoenix to ship mail back and forth. Earlier in the year, self-driving hydrogen fuel cell truck company Nikola Motor announced it would break ground on its manufacturing facility in Coolidge.

Photo courtesy of Waymo

Nick Esquer

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