Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo is currently testing self-driving trucks, putting the company’s autonomous hardware and software to the test in a Class-8 semi on a private track in California.
Road tests are expected to follow later this year in Arizona, although a spokesperson declined to comment on the specific location or timing of the trials.
The trucking trial is the latest in a series of tests that Waymo has conducted, including a limited trial currently underway, providing public access to 100 driverless vehicles for on-demand service in Phoenix.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Waymo said, “We’re taking our eight years of experience in building self-driving hardware and software and conducting a technical exploration into how our technology can integrate into a truck.”
Delivery trucks may very well beat passenger cars to the punch in commercial applications of driverless technology. Experts have predicted that self-driving trucks will be adopted for commercial use much more quickly than automated passenger vehicles, with some saying that automated semis could be a regular feature on American highways in the next three years.
Automation may end up displacing many of the 1.7 million professional truck drivers in the country, as well as permanently disrupting the $700 billion trucking industry.
Last October, a driverless truck successfully completed delivery of 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer in Colorado. The trial, organized and executed by Uber subsidiary Otto in cooperation with Anheuser-Busch, was announced to the press as the world’s first automated delivery of goods.
After years of development under the Project X umbrella, Waymo was created last December as a standalone company to monetize Alphabet’s advances in self-driving technology. Just last week, analysts at Morgan Stanley predicted that Waymo, as a standalone company, could be worth up to $70 billion by 2025.
However, for a relatively young company, Waymo has already had its share of controversy. In February, Waymo filed suit against Uber, alleging that one of its employees had stolen trade secrets from Waymo. The employee in question, a former Google employee who ended up at Uber after the Otto acquisition, was fired from Uber this week for refusing to hand over evidence related to the case.