back to article Enemies Waymo, Uber now friends making self-driving-ish trucks for US highways

Waymo and Uber announced on Tuesday a "long-term strategic partnership" promising to work together to deploy autonomous freight trucks on US roads, years after both companies fought bitterly over self-driving technology.  The collaboration will see Waymo retrofitting trucks with its AI-powered driving software operating on …

  1. Dinanziame Silver badge

    Choppy waters ahead

    On one hand, this is an obvious use case for the technology. Not only it might remove the most boring — and therefore dangerous — part of the work, it could also save a lot of gas thanks to the use of "road trains" created by multiple trucks following each other closely. On the other hand, truckers are pretty much exploited already, and this seems like a way for them to be paid even less... And when there is already a lack of drivers, who'd want to start on the business when you're guaranteed to be made redundant in a decade or two?

    1. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: Choppy waters ahead

      This is all about admin, capacity, restricting choice and little to nothing about autonomous driving.

      A little gas could be saved - but like delivery drones - over-blown benefits and in narrow circumstances….Good luck trying to pull off the motorway/freeway with the lane being blocked by an autonomous convoy slipstreaming !!

  2. Joe W Silver badge

    How about... trains?

    There's already some underground trains / public transport that is autonomous. Why not automate the rest as well? There are waaay fewer strange things the "AI" needs to deal with than on roads, plus there is only one dimension: along the track (points are just curved track you need to drive over slowly, which is signalled anyway, but the AI does not have to steer the train along the "intersection"). High speed trains are already controlled (in part) remotely when traveling top speed It is just not as sexy, I guess. To those who shout "what about the train stations, smartass?": those are still simpler than traffic downtown, or on rural roads, or on a busy highway. I'm also not saying that it would be simple, but certainly simpler than letting an "AI" drive cars on roads.

    1. druck Silver badge

      Re: How about... trains?

      Unless you can automate them all overnight, you have the militant rail unions to deal with, at least here in the UK.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: How about... trains?

        >rail unions to deal with, at least here in the UK.

        Not a problem you just have to keep 2man crews in the cab with the AI

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: How about... trains?

          What about the women? And does the AI count as undefined-gender part of the two in the crew?

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: How about... trains?

      >those are still simpler than traffic downtown

      So automate the long haul part.

      The AI drives the trucks 24hr/day for the 1000s km of freeway between coasts and into the massive out-of-town distribution centres just of the freeway.

      Then the squishy drivers do the last mile delivery to your local supermarket.

      There is no way for AI to do last mile delivery in the city without some major changes

  3. ciaran

    Trucks are where the money is

    The cost of making a truck autonomous is a much smaller investment than the cost of making a car autonomous.

    Since the start of the rush to autonomous driving I've seen the car as a test platform and as a way to raise public awareness and acceptance for self-driving vehicles in general.

    However the economic benefit of an autonomous car is low - robotaxis aren't going to change the world. On the other hand an autonomous truck can probably drive more than 20 hours a day, literally doubling the return on investment compared to a truck and driver.

    Full Self Driving software will be expensive simply because there's so much money on the table in the trucking world....

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Trucks are where the money is

      An autonomous truck also won't over rev engines or speed or brake hard.

      Autonomous mining trucks are cheaper to run because they are much easier on $30,000 tires.

  4. Spamfast

    Vehicles running the Waymo Driver software will be able to complete part of the journey autonomously, although human drivers will still need to be present.

    So not autonomous.

    Our test trucks have two autonomous specialists in the rig (one fully licensed professional truck driver and a co-driver).

    So the truck needs two people watching over it rather than a normal one that only needs one.

    It's bad enough with Tesla drivers playing doodle-jump with the 'autopilot' engaged on the highways. Forty tonne trucks will be fun.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      For now - this is a test remember

  5. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    one fully licensed professional truck driver

    I invite the curious to investigate Youtube to see just how bizarrely some of these fully licensed professional truck drivers can behave... I trust that the auto systems won't be learning from them?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: one fully licensed professional truck driver

      It's a hard job. There's so much to do. You've got to change gear, change gear, change gear, check mirror... murder a prostitute. Change gear, change gear, murder."

  6. KalaDude

    Uber's other self driving truck company

    I'm surprised to see no mention of Uber's other self driving company, specializing in trucks no less, Aurora Innovation, Inc.. Last I checked Uber owns circa 45% of Aurora and is already running trucks on the highway in Texas. Other large Auroroa shareholders include Toyota, Citadel, Sequoia, & Amazon; all with stakes ranging from 5 to 10 %. I wonder if Uber will cut out Aurora or tie them in with Waymo.

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