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JB Hunt to be Waymo’s first autonomous freight customer – TechCrunch

Waymo Via, the trucking and freight unit of the autonomous vehicle company, is expanding its existing partnership with logistics company JB Hunt Transport Services from a pilot project to a long-term strategic alliance.

As part of the deal, JB Hunt will be Waymo Via’s first launch customer for fully autonomous, driverless freight routes, which Waymo hopes to reach over the next few years.

Waymo and JB Hunt began a “trial” in 2021 along I-45 between Houston and Fort Worth, Texas, one of the country’s busiest trade corridors. Waymo’s Daimler Trucks, powered by the Autonomous Waymo Driver Platform, delivered 862,179 pounds of cargo at the end of the pilot, with no accidents or speeding tickets, 100% on-time pickup and delivery, and 100% freight intact, according to the company. Each of the rounds was carried out with a licensed commercial truck driver and a software technician on board to monitor operations.

“Our pilot project last year with Waymo Via really helped us to concretely understand how autonomous driving technology could be implemented in our operations,” said Craig Harper, Director of Sustainability and Executive Vice President of JB Hunt, in a statement. “This strategic alliance will continue this momentum and further explore the intricate details that would make it a value-driven solution for customers. “

JB Hunt to be Waymo’s first autonomous freight customer – TechCrunch

Image credits: Waymo

In 2022 and beyond, the companies plan to launch several more pilots along the same corridor in Texas to prepare for autonomous, driverless operations.

Waymo did not share the specific goals he hopes to achieve for his next pilot with JB Hunt, other than consolidating the driver-as-a-service model of the company, which involves Waymo partnering with an OEM like Daimler to build autonomous trucks equipped with the Waymo pilot. These trucks will be purchased directly from fleets or carriers, like JB Hunt, and maintained by partners like Ryder.

“That’s the long-term vision,” Julianne McGoldrick, spokesperson for Waymo, told TechCrunch. “In the meantime, as we move towards that vision, we have our fleet of test trucks, and the pilots that we’re going to do with those and with our autonomous specialists really need to acquire this operational practice so that when we reach With full autonomy of operations, we have all the basics in place to transport cargo without a human driver for JB Hunt and customers like them.

During the Waymo-JB Hunt partnership, the two companies also plan to conduct joint operational and market studies to learn more about their collective progress using autonomous trucks, as well as explore a technology integration with JB Hunt 360, the digital freight matching platform.

Of course, Waymo isn’t the only self-driving truck on the roads of Texas or elsewhere. One of Waymo Via’s contenders, TuSimple, recently completed its first self-driving driverless trucking race, effectively taking its technology to a more progressive stage. Aurora and Kodiak Robotics are also testing and hauling freight in Texas.

That’s not worrying Waymo – the strategy owned by Alphabet is more closely tied to its partners than it is to tick standalone boxes, McGoldrick says.

I think what we’ve seen is that a lot of partnerships or collaborations in the industry have been mostly focused on one-off tests or one-off pilots, and they haven’t had much weight, ”he said. she declared. “We are entering into this multi-year agreement with several components that really cover everything and show that we really go in depth with our partners, instead of just making a pilot for the sake of piloting. We’re really working on what our fully self-sustaining launch will look like with our partners to make it as successful as possible when we’re ready. ”

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